England vs India 2018: The much-anticipated series that Virat Kohli's army flattered to deceive
Of all the four Tests that have been played so far, it seems that India would be leading 3-1 but the grim reality is just the other way round i.e. 1-3. It takes a lot of pain to introspect again and again on the loopholes that were self-created by the Indian batsmen in the much-discussed Test series.
Agreed that traditionally India has been a batting-heavy side mostly dominated by the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly to name a few. But this Indian side hinges mostly in and around Virat Kohli who is left alone to ponder as to what will be the situation of the side once he is dismissed.
This has been the gory state of affairs for India under Virat Kohli ever since the much anticipated and challenging overseas tour of South Africa began. It seems like the recent history (January 2018) has repeated itself once again here in England. Notwithstanding the fact that England couldn’t run away with the Test Series 3-1 but it was like India meekly surrendered from winning positions in the Birmingham and Southampton Tests when the match was hanging on a cliffhanger on most occasions.
Barring the Nottingham Test where Kohli and Co. made an unlikely comeback into the test series reigniting the hopes of India fans that their team can come from behind and win the 5-Test series 3-2; which has been done only once in the annals of history of this beautiful game by Sir Donald Bradman’s Australia in the famous Ashes series of 1936 at home, which they won 3-2 after going down 0-2.
According to cricket Pundits, Team India missed the best of chances to win the Test series both in South Africa and England only flattering to deceive under Virat Kohli’s captaincy. Who knows what would be the situation of Team India in whites four years later when our captain courageous would have turned 33 and most likely there would be new youngsters in the team replacing some of them who touched South African and English shores this time.
As an Indian cricket fan, it feels heavy to keep on highlighting the faults again and again. What has happened is history now and cannot be altered. It's time to garner some more respect by winning the Oval Test and ending the series on a high as a 2-3 looks better than 1-4.
However, England Captain Joe Root in a pre-match conference sounded positive as his boys want to give a fitting farewell to the greatest English batsman as per statistics—Alastair Cook by winning the series 4-1. On the other hand, Virat Kohli would want to win the last Test, and no doubt his boys are not throwing in the towel.
India needs to buckle up its batting as their bowling and fielding have been outstanding, like that of a top-ranked side. Statistically, history favours India as they won the Johannesburg Test after losing the series 0-2. Likewise, England has the dubious distinction of losing all the 12 Tests (dead rubber) after winning a Test series.
This dead rubber is not going to be a boring one as it is not only Cook’s final appearance in Tests (161 Tests) but also gives run-machine Virat Kohli to break some more records (and improve his overall stats in English soil). Virat already has had a brilliant series with the bat as he has scored 544 runs that include two Hundreds and three Fifties.
England goes into the Oval Test with an unchanged side that sealed the series in Southampton. They have some concerns with their top order not showing fire in the belly to score runs. However, the real heroes are the lower-middle order all-rounders: Sam Curran, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler who have bailed them out from precarious situations when England lost 5-6 wickets under 100 runs. With pitch conditions likely to assist the spinners at Oval, Moeen Ali is going to be the key once again alongside Adil Rashid.
On the other hand, India will surely look to try out their bench strength as Hanuma Vihari and Prithvi Shaw are most likely to debut replacing Dhawan/Rahul and Hardik Pandya respectively. World no. 3 Test bowler and India’s best fielder Ravindra Jadeja is likely to play, forming a potent spin-duo with Ravichandran Ashwin.
Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly also insisted on the newbies Shaw and Vihari to get a chance to showcase their talents. Also, this could also be the last head-to-head between Virat Kohli and English great James Anderson; the latter just four wickets shy of the Aussie great Glenn McGrath’s tally of 563 Test wickets. He is likely to surpass Pigeon to become the highest wicket-taker in Tests by a fast bowler.