Despite setting England a massive 378-run target in the rescheduled fifth and final Test of the Pataudi Trophy at Birmingham’s Edgbaston Cricket Ground, India suffered a humiliating seven-wicket defeat.
Riding magnificent fourth innings hundreds by Joe Root (142*) and Jonny Bairstow (114*), England completed the record chase in just 76.4 overs to level the series 2-2 and dash India’s hopes of winning their fourth Test series on English soil.
The visitors, led by Jasprit Bumrah in the absence of COVID-infected Rohit Sharma, seemed to lack intent as they failed to make any inroads after scalping three quick wickets between the 22nd and 25th overs.
It appeared that India had no answer to England’s ultra-aggressive red-ball approach, which has been dubbed ’Baz-ball' after their new Test head coach Brendon McCullum's nickname 'Baz'.
In the wake of the embarrassing defeat, which has dented India’s chances of reaching the World Test Championship final, former Indian all-rounder Karsan Ghavri has called for a middle-order overhaul.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Ghavri, who represented India in 39 Tests and 19 ODIs between 1975 and 1981, also criticized the frequent breaks given to senior players and said that Virat Kohli can no longer afford to take his place for granted.
Here are the excerpts:
Q: Nobody had imagined that India’s 378-run target would be chased down so easily by England. How much will the manner of this defeat affect the morale of the team going forward?
Ghavri: The consistency was missing, especially in our second innings. Batting, bowling, bowling changes, fielding and field placement – everything was a concern. Negative bowling also cost us the match. Why did Ravindra Jadeja keep bowling over the wicket during England's second innings? It was a negative approach.
All we needed was a breakthrough in the first session of the fifth day. Had we dismissed either Jonny Bairstow or Joe Root within the first half-an-hour, the scenario would’ve been different.
The biggest mistake was made by the BCCI when they appointed Jasprit Bumrah as captain. If Rishabh Pant was available, why was he not made captain? If not Pant, at least Virat Kohli should’ve stood up and said, If no one’s there, I’ll captain the side.
He should’ve led the team, you know. In any case, it was Virat who led India in four Tests in England last year. Why didn’t he put his hand up for the fifth Test?
Q: During your playing days, the Indian Test team used to play a lot of practice matches against the counties before taking on England. Do you think this team should’ve spent more time in England before heading into the series decider?
Ghavri: Things have changed now. Today, you don’t need to play four county matches before playing a Test as everyone is ready to slip into any format. It’s just a frame of mind. If they play a three-day match against a county or an intra-squad game of the same duration, I think that’s good enough preparation for a Test match.
You can’t complain that you weren’t prepared enough. You can’t keep giving excuses. Everyone needs to accept the fact that we played poor cricket in the fourth innings. We did pretty well in our first innings with both bat and ball. Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah bowled beautifully during England’s first innings. Gaining a 132-run lead is no joke. I still can’t understand how we lost the match.
During England’s second innings, we got three quick wickets. Why didn’t the team then push harder for the next two wickets? We gave the two in-form England batters (Root and Bairstow) the opportunity to score big. I think it was a grave mistake on India’s part.
Q: Do you think India picked the right XI for the match?
Ghavri: We have a top-notch spinner, but they didn’t give him enough chances in the Test series in England. I’m talking about Ashwin. What was Shardul Thakur’s role in the team? How many overs did he bowl in the fifth Test?
Ashwin is also a better batter than Thakur and can give you thirty overs a day with the ball. Had Ashwin played the Edgbaston Test, we would’ve had some variety in our bowling. The team management kept him out, which was totally wrong. He didn’t play many Tests last year either. I’m sure he must be a frustrated man.
Q: Senior players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have been rested for India’s upcoming three-match ODI series in the West Indies. Some BCCI officials are apparently unhappy with the senior players' frequent unavailability. What’s your take on this?
Ghavri: How much rest do Virat and Rohit need? How long did Virat bat in the Test match? Playing for India should be their number one priority. You should shoot for advertisements during the IPL, not while playing for India. You cannot ask for frequent breaks in the name of workload management.
Rohit Sharma ko England kyun bheja hai (Why did they send Rohit Sharma to England)? He didn’t play the Test and will only play limited-overs matches. Does he still need another break? He has rested enough.
Q: As per a recent report carried by The Times of India, Kohli’s T20I future will depend on how he performs in white-ball matches against England. Do you think the Indian think-tank should persist with him in T20Is?
Ghavri: Players should be selected on merit. Virat has made India proud on many occasions, but drop him if he’s not in form. It’s as simple as that. Bring in the guys who are in form. Virat Kohli is a big name, but where are the runs? How long can you play based on your past reputation? He’s still stuck on 27 Test centuries. Meanwhile, Joe Root has now surpassed him despite lagging behind until recently.
Q: What changes would you like to see in the Indian team before the start of the next World Test Championship cycle?
Ghavri: India need to qualify for the final of the current World Test Championship cycle first. I’m not an astrologer who can predict that India will qualify.
I think it’s time we looked beyond Hanuma Vihari and Shardul Thakur. Shubman Gill is a good future prospect, but where is his consistency? Sarfaraz Khan and Surya Kumar Yadav need to be drafted into the Test team as soon as possible. They are the future stars of Indian cricket. Our next Test series is against Bangladesh in November. Don’t think they are pushovers. We have to play against them with our best resources.
Poll : Do you think Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are doing the right thing by resting so often?