As James Anderson cleaned up Mohammad Shami to become the highest wicket taker among pacers, another woeful overseas tour was concluded. Unlike previous encounters between the two sides on this turf, the series was fiercely competitive, in stark contrast to what the scoreline suggests. Except the second Test at Lord's, India had their chances in all the games, but failed to hold on to them.
The unfavorable result was largely an outcome of the lack of application and tenacity by the batsmen and barring Virat Kohli, everyone else looked ill-at-ease. At the same time, captain Kohli took some inexplicable decisions, which attracted criticism from the sporting fraternity, including some senior stalwarts.
We have a look at five such unreasonable decisions that cost India the series against England:
#1 Omitting Cheteshwar Pujara in Edgbaston
India kick started their Test tour against England at Edgbaston, eyeing the opportunity to become the first Asian country to get the better of the hosts at the venue. Cheteshwar Pujara's unsuccessful run in the county cricket was being viewed as a concern for Team India, with the Saurashtra batsman also attracting criticism for his highly defensive approach. Although Pujara's form was under continuous scrutiny, he was expected to make the cut in the squad.
What followed was a shock when captain Kohli exchanged the team sheets with his English counterpart, omitting Pujara from the squad. The result was that the batting line up failed miserably, with India being in the hunt due to the valiant, single-handed century of Virat Kohli. The batting line up failed in the second innings as well, largely down to the lack of patience and poor shot selection, failing to chase a mediocre 193.
Pujara has an ideal temperament for these conditions and can survive vicious spells of bowlers with his defensive technique. He has a good shot selection, which is complemented by the wide array of shots in his repertoire. If he had been given a chance, Pujara could have combined with Kohli to take India across the line and register a win upfront.
#2 Inadequate utilization of Ravichandran Ashwin at Edgbaston
The Edgbaston pitch provided a fair bit of assistance to fast bowlers, despite which Ashwin extracted a prodigious amount of turn from the pitch. The delivery which dismissed Alistair Cook was particularly fascinating, turning right through his defence and knocking him over, speaking volumes about Ashwin's skill set. The 31-year old claimed four wickets in the innings.
When the English batsmen came out to bat for the second time, the pitch had quite something to relish for the spinners as well, with Ashwin claiming the priced scalp of Cook in a similar fashion. Ashwin cleaned up the top order, while Ishant Sharma ran through the middle order, with his triple wicket over reducing England to 87-7.
At this point, it was prudent for Kohli to bring back Ashwin into the attack and clean up the tail, since they find things difficult against the spinners. However, Kohli kept bowling Ishant and Shami, who continuously bowled wide lengths outside the off stump, enabling youngster Sam Curran to cut them for boundaries, en route to his quickfire 63. This knock proved to be the difference between the two sides, as India succumbed 31 runs shy of the target.
#3 Playing Kuldeep Yadav in the Lord's Test
It was evident that Virat Kohli dearly missed a second spinner in the first Test match, costing the team a chance to go one up in the series. With temperatures regularly hovering around 30ºC fair, a dry outfield and a fair bit of grass on the pitch, Kohli admitted that he is prompted to play a second spinner at Lord's.
However, a heavy shower on the first day forced to abandon the day's play and brought about a drastic change in the conditions. The track became a feast for pacers, with James Anderson at his lethal best, picking up a five-wicket haul to bowl out the visitors for 107.
The team management failed to adapt as per the conditions and decided to give Kuldeep Yadav a go. This decision had a horrendous outcome on the team, as the chinaman had a forgettable outing, ending wicketless with an economy close to five. India were outplayed comprehensively and lost the match by a huge margin of an innings and 159 runs.
#4 Inefficient channelization of resources and omission of Ravindra Jadeja in Southampton
Ravichandran Ashwin was reportedly suffering from a groin injury ahead of the 4th Test match at the Ageas Oval, a venue traditionally known for assisting spinners. Ashwin, being India's main spinner, was crucial to the team's chances in the tie, with the series being at stake. World No 3 bowler Ravindra Jadeja did not take field in the first three matches. Jadeja, widely acclaimed for his accuracy, and with Ashwin not 100% fit, should have been given a chance on the spin-friendly track ahead of Hardik Pandya.
Even with the playing XI that captain Kohli chose, India had their chances in the game but failed to hold on to them. England had been reeling at 86-6 in their first innings, with the top six batsmen inside the pavilion. However, it was once again the tail that pinched India, as the visitors lost the chance to bowl the hosts out of the game. Hardik Pandya leaked runs at an economy of 6.37, as Sam Curran once again brought back the ghosts of the first Test.
In the second innings, captain Kohli did not give Mohammad Shami a go till the 31st over, constantly bowling Ashwin from one end. Shami responded brilliantly on getting the cherry, sending Jennings and Bairstow back on successive deliveries. Kohli kept bowling Ashwin from one end, despite the latter not delivering the goods, which affected the momentum of other bowlers as well, helping England to race away with a lead of 244 runs.
It was Moeen Ali who rose on to the occasion for England, along with pacers James Anderson and Ben Stokes, to take an unassailable lead in the series.
#5 Inexplicable bowling partnerships at Kennington Oval
The fifth match had turned out to be a dead rubber, with the fate of the series already decided. However, coach Ravi Shastri had promised that they would 'not throw into the towel'. The bowlers seem to have embodied the spirit, as they reduced England to 198/7 at the the end of the first day, picking up six wickets in the last session. However, it was the tail that again haunted India, as Jos Buttler and Stuart Broad put up a 98-run stand for the 9th wicket. The field also turned out to be defensive once Buttler got into his act, allowing the batsmen to pick up easy singles.
In the third innings, Virat Kohli made some strange bowling changes, bowling Ishant Sharma for only eight overs, while giving the other two pacers more than 20 overs apiece. It seemed liked he wanted to spin a web around the English batsmen, as he bowled Jadeja for a marathon 47 overs. Ironically, the other spinner, Hanuma Vihari, only bowled 9.3 overs, and impressed with three wickets, including those of centurions Cook and Root. The English batsmen were absolutely untroubled by the bowling changes and field settings, as they feasted on the Indian bowlers to amass 423 runs on the board.