Why the IPL is partly responsible for India's poor show in England
As the Indian team crossed the shores of Europe in the late June, the buzz about the much-anticipated England v India test series had begun. England were going through tumultuous times as a test team after their 4-0 Ashes drubbing in the winter, and a dissatisfying 1-1 series draw against Pakistan earlier in the summer.
India were termed as favorites to beat a ‘depleted’ English team in their own backyard.
However, as the series begun, India found themselves unable to counter England’s quality swing bowling. The tentative play-or-leave approach and sometimes too much aggression and disrespect to the bowlers meant they found found the survival at the crease a struggle.
England seemed to be the better of the two sides and the Indians will be kicking themselves for letting their fans down and shattering their expectations. The question remains, why did team India fail to put up a fight again? One of the possible answers could be the incredibly long, exhausting and always-blamed IPL season.
When the cricket experts point out IPL as the reason for India's failure in overseas test matches, they might not be wrong. Here is why the two-month IPL season may have been a factor in India's poor show.
Deterioration in temperament
There is no denying that the IPL has instilled a sense of impatience in the minds of Indian batsmen. A lot of times, the batsmen think they need to play at the balls and up the scoring rate when it is least needed.
With a prolonged run of over two months in the IPL, it takes some to get out of that T20 zone. If you observe the pattern of dismissals, most of them have got out fishing at the balls outside the off-stump. Hitting the balls on the up might be an effective way to succeed in IPL, but in English conditions, it is flirting with death.
KL Rahul is a good example of a classic test batsman who has lost his run-scoring ways in the red-ball game after redeeming himself in the shortest format. Rahul, who looked to be an opener with a temperament solid enough to combat Anderson and Broad, is surprisingly driving balls when it is not required thereby edging them to the keeper.
In order to honor the franchise’s commitments, most players tend to play the long IPL season carrying injuries which worsens their chances of participating in the future tours.
Before the start of the series, India lost the services of key players like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Wriddhiman Saha and Jasprit Bumrah. While Bumrah’s injury came in the first T20I against Ireland, Wriddhiman Saha and Bhuvneshwar played the IPL with the injury.
In Wriddhiman’s case, he was suffering from both a shoulder injury which he sustained in South Africa, and a thumb injury. Bhuvneshwar too has been suffering from a dodgy back since January, which made him miss the Nidahas Trophy in March.
Both Saha and Kumar opted to play the IPL carrying injuries instead of allowing themselves time to recover. The outcome was that India’s fast-bowling looked lackluster and Saha’s replacement Dinesh Karthik looked woefully out of form. Clearly, India missed the duo on England tour.
Lack of quality technique and match practice
A flawless technique is the most important ingredient to succeed in test cricket outside of the sub-continent. With the advent of the T20 game, 'technique' is losing its importance from the skill sets of players as all they have to do is try to whack every ball.
It is surprising to see the increasing deterioration in the technique of the Indian batsmen, with no one barring Virat Kohli looking like surviving 100 balls at the crease. Technically solid players like Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay too have started showing vulnerability. The increasing withering comes on the back of the IPL where technique is not valued.
Also, two months of the IPL consume a lot of precious time from the cricketing calendar making the players unable to play enough warm-up matches/ County cricket in order to get match practice.
The IPL season prevented the Indian cricketers from signing County deals. While Pujara and Ishant Sharma played for Yorkshire and Sussex respectively, Kohli's stint with Surrey was cancelled due to injury, and Vijay and Rahane played only one game against England Lions. Clearly, a lack of red-ball cricket in England brought about India's downfall in the test series.
Finding a way out...
It might be wrong to entirely blame the IPL for the drubbing in England, but there is no doubt that it has been a factor. In the future, the Board could try asking players to leave the IPL early before an important tour or stopping them from participating in it when they are not 100% fit.