Rajkot had geared up for its much-awaited debut in the game’s traditional format. Despite all the pre-series talk pointing towards England’s perceived inability to play spin, a rather benign pitch was served up which led to an anti-climactic end.
When Virat Kohli’s luck with the toss came to an end, the visitors seized advantage by piling on a mammoth total in the first innings. However, the Indians hit back with an efficient batting performance of their own. When Alastair Cook finally chose to declare shortly after lunch on the final day, the hosts made things interesting by losing early wickets. But, they eventually held on to emerge from Rajkot with a draw.
Let us take a look at how each Indian player performed in the opening Test.
Murali Vijay & Cheteshwar Pujara – 8
Having spent the better part of the first two days on the field watching England’s batsmen making a rich bounty, India’s top-order had to contend with scoreboard pressure as well. When Gautam Gambhir was sent back quite early on the third day, another wicket could have been disastrous for the home team. But, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara managed to deflate the tourists’ hopes by compiling a 209-run partnership.
Both batsmen reached three figures and propelled India to a formidable total. In the second innings, only Vijay knew what he was doing by often stepping out of his crease while Pujara drew coach Anil Kumble’s ire by refusing to take a howler upstairs.
Virat Kohli & Ravichandran Ashwin – 6.5
Skipper Kohli joined an ignominious list of Indian batsmen stepping on to their own stumps during the first innings. But, he somewhat redeemed himself on the final day by taking his team to safety.
Ashwin’s record against England makes for a curious reading. With the ball, he averages a whopping 53.40 (including this match) whilst maintaining a batting average of 50.11 which is the best among all Indian batsmen during the last four years. The all-rounder pulled the hosts out of a precarious position with a handy 70 but remained a shadow of himself in the bowling department.
Ravindra Jadeja – 6
By far the most threatening of all Indian bowlers in the first innings, Jadeja might have been slightly under-bowled. He also chipped in with a neat 33-ball 32 during the final moments of the match.
Mohammed Shami – 6
The pacer created an opportunity as early as in the third ball of the game when he drew Cook into a loose shot but Ajinkya Rahane grassed the chance at gully. Battling severe cramps, Shami still managed to keep things tight on a surface which did not have anything for him.
Umesh Yadav – 5.5
Even though he kept running in all day and threatened to provide breakthroughs, the wholehearted bowler was continuously let down by shoddy catching behind the stumps. But, his economy rate in both innings presented a concern as well.
Wriddhiman Saha – 5
Usually pretty safe with the gloves, Saha had quite possibly the worst match of his career so far. With Yadav reversing the ball considerably, he failed to judge the line instantaneously and put down Ben Stokes twice in quick succession. His batting veered from dependable in the first innings to disenchanting in the second.
Amit Mishra – 4.5
With Ashwin and Jadeja being the first choice spinners, Mishra needed to put in a solid performance to convince the think tank of his utility. Instead, he only raised question marks surrounding his fitness after failing to bowl consistently at the required pace.
Gautam Gambhir – 4
The experienced campaigner received a call-up due to his proven prowess against the turning ball. However, his remodeled stance prevented him from lasting long enough to see off the quicker men. The manner in which he was dismissed in the first innings should put his place for the next Test in jeopardy.
Ajinkya Rahane – 3.5
Aside from dropping a catch and scoring only 14 runs across both innings, Rahane’s struggle to pick up length was all the more concerning. But, as his stellar record shows, he often takes some time to get into the groove which could indicate better returns as the series progresses.