IND vs ENG 2021: 3 talking points from the Nottingham Test
It would, of course, sound very harsh and premature to ask whether Virat Kohli is past his prime as a batter. It is, however, worth analysing his recent performances in an in-depth manner following his golden duck in Nottingham.
Virat Kohli’s form: More than a temporary blip?
Most top cricketers are said to be at their peak during the late 20s and early 30s. Kohli was definitely on top of his game a couple of years back. But that doesn't appear to be the case now. Numbers don’t always lie. Since the start of 2020, Kohli is averaging 23 from nine Test matches. Four of them were played at home against England.
Barring a couple of half-centuries, Kohli did little of note and ended the home series with an average of under 30. That was in stark contrast to his wonderful batting efforts in 2016, when he amassed 655 runs in five Tests at an average of over 100. Yes, cricket is not all about numbers. So Kohli’s century-less streak heading back to November 2019 is only a part of a larger problem.
The time has come to ask this tough question now. One cannot discredit Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane for their significant contributions to Indian cricket. However, after yet another no-show in Nottingham, it is only fair to say that the defiant batters don’t seem good enough to produce the results at the top level anymore.
Time to look beyond Pujara, Rahane?
Pujara made 4 from 14 in the first innings before getting a beauty from James Anderson and somehow survived 13 balls in the second. While some may feel Pujara has been unlucky, there is another theory doing the round that he is allowing the bowlers to do so with his ultra-defensive approach. Whatever the case, his methods aren’t working.
Shifting the focus to Rahane, the manner in which he ran himself out in Nottingham was very much indicative of his uncertain mindset. The calm, composed Rahane of old wouldn’t have taken off like that. It will be a futile exercise to dig up Rahane and Pujara’s numbers over the last year or so. More than stats, it is the think-tank's non-admission of the serious problem at hand that is a bigger worry.
The Nottingham Test gave further proof that England’s batting is fast turning into a one-man show, even more so in the absence of Ben Stokes. And the frequency is now reaching an embarrassing level. England captain Joe Root scored 173 runs in Nottingham - 64 in the first innings and 109 in the second.
England’s batting line-up: A one-man show
The others from the top seven for England scored 74 in the first innings and 124 in the second - a combined total of 198, which is only slightly more than what Root scored on his own across two innings. There seems to be no end to England’s batting woes. Rory Burns gave them hope when he scored a hundred and a half-century in the Tests against New Zealand.
However, Burns was completely unsettled by India’s top-quality pacers in Nottingham. Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence added further question marks in front of their Test careers, posing further headaches for the selectors ahead of The Ashes. One cannot see England winning this Test series against India unless their batting line-up comes up with a spectacular resurrection act.