Indian batsmen’s inadequacies stand exposed again

Reuters photo.

In 17 trips to England, India have won just three series and a total of just six Test matches. One of the primary reasons behind such miserable performances, as was witnessed in the opening Test at Edgbaston, is the batsmen’s inability to counter seam and swing bowling.

Openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, one-drop KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane, the last one mentioned being one of the very few Indian batsmen who relishes foreign conditions than on the spinning tracks back home, all departed without making meaningful contributions that had a telling effect in the heart-breaking 31-run defeat.

Vijay, Dhawan and Rahane — who all were part of the fateful 1-3 drubbing India suffered here in 2014 — should have learnt from previous experiences that good footwork and patience is of utmost importance in Old Blighty but the trio batted with careless abandon that has put India on the back foot right at the start of a marathon journey.

Vijay and Dhawan offered hope on the second morning when they raised a 50-run partnership — India’s first fifty-run opening stand in 18 innings in England since 2011. Although Dhawan looked ragged right throughout his stay, he somehow battled it out while Vijay appeared in no discomfort whatsoever against England’s premier pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad. But the moment unheralded left-armer Sam Curran was introduced into the attack, their lack of preparation stood exposed.

Not having seen much of Curran, Vijay departed following a lazy shot while Dhawan, instead of knuckling down, tried driving while being rooted at the crease. Rahul, playing a Test in England for the first time, went for glory shot off the second ball he faced to see his stumps rattled. The dependable Rahane played a nothing shot to exit early as well.

If not for the brilliant 149 from skipper Virat Kohli and a strong rearguard action, India could have been bundled out for less than 150. Kohli, determined to bury the ghosts of 2014 and prove he’s indeed the best batsman in the world currently, made the necessary adjustments to his technique to handle seam and swing. He batted out of his crease and swallowed his ego for the better part of his stay.

Sadly, none of his team-mates showed the same fire and desire in the second innings too. Chasing a gettable target of 194, Vijay, Rahul, Dhawan and Rahane all committed the same mistakes yet again that left Kohli with the task of steering a sinking ship all on his own again.

The situation and the recent away defeats remind one of the scenario prevalent in 1990s when Indian batting depended heavily on Sachin Tendulkar or a phase when Sunil Gavaskar had to do the bulk of scoring for the team to stay competitive. During that time, Tendulkar had to carry the Indian team solely on his shoulders. If the great man scored, India scored. If he failed, India failed.

Kohli has scored some remarkable overseas hundreds in the last few years but India have won none of it because the others have failed to support him. India started to travel well in the 2000s because Tendulkar found the support of Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. Unless the other batsmen stand up and fight a unified battle, India will end up tasting more such defeats.

The batsmen will also have to bear in mind that this team now has the bowling resources to pick up 20 wickets consistently abroad. They did that in South Africa on three straight occasions and in England in the first game. If they keep misfiring, it’s going to deflate them at some stage.

Also, Hardik Pandya needs to step up his game. Picked as an all-rounder, he’s been abysmal with the ball and poor with the bat. He’s been touted as a special talent with Kohli even expecting him to do the kind of job that Ben Stokes does for England. The difference in quality was there for all to see in the first match. Pandya’s much of his heroics have been restricted shorter formats. The true test of one’s ability is in whites. The next five weeks will give an answer of his temperament and that of the team.

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Indian batsmen’s inadequacies stand exposed again

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