The New Zealand tour ended on a lamentable note for India, as the World No.1 Test side ended up facing a 0-2 drubbing on the hands of the hosts, losing the two matches by 10 wickets and 7 wickets respectively. The on-field brilliance of Kiwis was supplemented by some concerns on the part of the visiting side, including the lean patch of talismanic captain Virat Kohli and an underwhelming show from speedster Jasprit Bumrah. In addition to this, there was a blast from the past, as the ghosts of the previous foreign tours came to haunt India- the torment of the tailenders, from both the sides.
Tell 'tail' signs
The tail, their own as well as the opposition's, has been a cause of concern for Team India for quite some time now. Over the years, the Indian team has evolved to earn the title of 'Best in Test' in the longest format of the game, with immaculate batsmen and adept bowlers. In fact, the Indian pace bowling line-up is arguably the best at the moment, as compared to the peers as well as the seniors. While the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have given some of the most technically proficient batsmen in the world a run for their money on their own turf, the tail has managed to linger around, adding valuable runs for their teams.
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On the other hand, when the opposition manages to run through the Indian batting line-up, a similar contribution is found wanting from the Indian tail. This contrast in fortunes turns out to be the difference between the two sides, giving the hosts a decisive edge. There have been numerous occasions when India had to concede defeat due to similar situations, which has given rise to the generalist-specialist debate on many occasions.
These figures are a testimony to the above statement. The scores of the batsmen at the positions of 8,9,10,11 have been included in this analysis. These scores are of the most recent Test outings of India in the SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia), beginning from 2018. While there has been a marked increase in the average scores accumulated by the oppositions, the figures of Indian tailenders fail to impress. The only time that India outscored their opponents was in the very first series against South Africa, due to a resilient Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
There have been certain instances where the widening of this gap resulted in a loss for the World No.1 side. A case in example is the first Test match of the England tour at Birmingham, where England were reeling at 87-7, with a 100-run lead. It was then, that Sam Curran hit a strokeful 63-run knock to give India a 194-run target, which the visitors ultimately fell short of by 31 runs. Similarly, in the first Test against Australia at Adelaide, the defiant Australian tail accumulated 107 runs, but India finally managed to get past the line with the same margin as above.
Team India would well understand the importance of these runs, as there have been instances when they have been at the delivering end as well. In the third Test against South Africa at Johannesburg, it was the Indian tail that posted 100 vital runs in a low scoring thriller, and Mohammad Shami ran through the South African tail to hand India a hard earned 63-run victory.
Test cricket is the oldest and toughest form of the sport, demanding physical as well as mental endurance, with a test of technique along with temperament. Team India have fallen shy of victory on many occasions on account of these fillers. With every Test match henceforth being important on account of the World Test Championship, it is imperative for the team management to address this issue at the earliest.Published 03 Mar 2020, 00:15 IST