Lord's Test: Ignominy Blown Out Of Proportions
James Anderson, right-arm fast medium, is into the attack.
Stuart Broad, right-arm fast medium,is into the attack.
Chris Woakes, right-arm fast, comes into the attack.
Sam Curran, left-arm medium pace, is into the attack.
Perhaps the only thing more intimidating for an Indian cricket fan than the English pace quartet operating in tandem is the sight of batsmen ambling back to the pavilion one by one, with each bowler scalping at least one in each macabre spell.
Vijay in, Vijay out; Rahul in, Rahul out; Pujara in, Pujara out. Such was the haplessness of the Indian batting line-up last Saturday that despite having within its ranks the likes of Kohli, Rahane and Pujara, India were bundled out for a total of 107- a total that would be considered way below par on any mortal cricket ground.
The situation has more or less been the same in the past- India have always been tagged 'terrified travellers', more so because they scarcely produced a crop of quality fast bowlers, who could use their variety and skill to produce a spell like Anderson's or Woakes', and rip apart the home team's batting line-up.
Despite the unavailability of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Bumrah, the attack comprising of Ishant, Shami and Umesh was expected to deliver the goods in England. However, little did the prognosticators know that a verbatim retelling of the SA series was to follow- bowlers taking wickets but batsmen not getting runs. It was a familiar story: another overseas tour, another overseas disappointment.
Minutes into the post-lunch session on Sunday, however, social media was abuzz with tweets criticizing the constant "chopping and changing" of the eleven, Kohli's captaincy-maleficence, and the obdurateness of India's top three.
All of a sudden, people seemed to want the likes of Rishabh Pant, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, and Prithvi Shaw in the side.
The emotions are understandable, but it is not to be forgotten that this is an English bowling department at the peak of its prowess- arguably the best since Fred Trueman's times- aided by conditions they have always fancied playing in.
To say that the Indian batting under-performed at the Lord's would be a gross mistake. Rather, it would be fitting to eulogize and accentuate the glory of Anderson and Co. They made Indian batting look pedestrian. There was swing; there was seam movement; there was pace; there was bounce; and there was some inconceivable amount of spice in their bowling that Bollywood films are bound to resent.
The fact that the Indian Team's preparation for the Test Series was minimal could also have been a contributing factor for their batting struggles. It could well be fathomed out, that barring Virat Kohli, almost all the other all-formats players were still pining to get some coloured clothing on and bludgeon the white ball, as emphasized by their work-in-progress bat speeds.
The five days post the limited overs assignment were spent in various parts of Europe, exploring delicious English cuisines (and later encountering a malicious English attack) and holidaying through picturesque tourist spots. Much of this obliterates Kohli's 'no complacency'-rule, because it cannot be called anything but smug on the part of the management, that only eight days of competitive cricket were held between the while-ball and Test series.
Added to that was Nature's iniquitous lack of sympathy for Kohli's men: first when an entire day's play was washed out even as a billion people called out to their Gods, and then when the toss went in England's favour and Root put them in to bat.
Unsurprisingly, India's periods of batting were enveloped by overcast skies and treacherous swing- as treacherous and sinister as the Bond movies- and the ball zipped in the air and trilled on the track and bounced along. And when Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings walked out to bat, the clouds- in archetypal English amiability- looked, smiled, and went home.
But the congenital capriciousness of the Indian cricket follower unleashed itself on social media, taking to some hilarious tweets and posts ridiculing the same batsmen they had adored and worshiped a few months ago. With little factorization of the events that had taken place.
The Lord's Test cannot be held as testimony to the 'terrified travellers' tag that the Indians carry around. It has been perennially observed that sub-continental batsmen take time to acclimatize and tweak their batting when confronted by morbid overseas conditions.
As Kohli rightly pointed out at the press conference, this is the first time in the last two years or so that this Indian team has been outplayed in a Test match. This is their first innings defeat since their 2014 tour to England.
The onus lies not on replacing inveterate, yet currently failing batsmen, with young blood. Rather, the immediate decisions Kohli has to make, are concerning the opening pair and a cut on the rejig. Although India will retain their No.1 ranking even after a 0-5 loss in England this year, it will be diaphanous by the end of this series whether they are truly deserving of that spot or not.