India may have lost the England Test series 1-4, but they can held their heads high that they were competitive in all matches except at Lord’s. If they had done few things better, India could have had the last laugh in the series. Nevertheless, they are plenty of lessons for India to learn in the Test series loss against England which they can use it to improve ahead of the much-anticipated Test series against Australia Down Under. So, here are the lessons for Virat Kohli and his men ahead of Australia Tests.
Enough practice games before Tests
India have been criticised for not playing enough practice matches on tour to get acclimatise to the conditions. They ditched a practice match for net sessions ahead of the first Test in South Africa. And before the five-match Test series in England, they asked for a four-day practice match to be reduced to three. In both the series, India lost the first two Tests before winning the third. Former Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar has been harsh on India for lack of practice games on tour.
Selectors, team management must work together
Indian selectors chose Karun Nair for the Test series, but he was a mere passenger in the squad as he was not given a single game. It was evident that Indian team management, comprising captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri, did not had much faith in Nair as they selected a debutant in Hanuman Vihari for the fifth Test and the second Indian triple-centurion warmed the benches. Indian selectors and team management must work in tandem in choosing the best squad that can win the series.
Selection as per pitch conditions
India’s selection of playing XI was highly debatable and that contributed a great deal in the 1-4 series loss. They left out a reliable Cheteshwar Pujara in the first Test and paid the price, losing the match narrowly by 31 runs. They chose a second spinner in Kuldeep Yadav for Lord’s Test when the pitch conditions cried for seam bowling. And in the same Test, Adil Rashid did not bowl a single over. India’s baffling selection proved to be their undoing. And India must avoid that in Test series Down Under.
Although both teams dropped a lot of catches, it was India who paid the price, letting drift crucial phases in the games and the match eventually. As the series progressed, England improved with slip catching in the fifth Test, while India dropped five in the same match that led to 1-4 drubbing. Except KL Rahul, none of the Indian slip fielders looked at ease. India must work on this aspect ahead of the Test series in Australia.
Specialist keeper a must
The poor handling of first-choice keeper W Saha’s injury made India go with Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant in the series. Both were inconsistent and unpredictable. While Karthik had a forgettable series, Pant showed glimpses of brilliance with a ton, and few outstanding catches behind the stumps. But his inadequacies as keeper were exposed as he conceded record byes in the series. Hence, India must hope for Saha to recover quickly and don the specialist keeper’s gloves in Test series Down Under.
Runs from lower-order batsmen
England’s dogged lower-order batting helped England win the series 4-1. Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler were the heroes of the series as they rescued England time and again from hopeless situations to take the game away from India. In return, India’s lower-order batsmen were walking wickets for England bowlers. Jasprit Bumrah showed great fighting spirit with the bat though, while other lower-order batsmen were found wanting.
Except Virat Kohli, none of the Indian batsmen looked comfortable in English conditions. Indian batsmen’s weakness against swinging ball was visibly exposed. And it would not be any better in Australia where pace and bounce will be offered in plenty, although swing will be less. But Indian batsmen’s technique will be tested in Australian conditions and they must work on it in the lead-up to the series.
Look beyond Pandya
Virat Kohli’s dogged persistence with Hardik Pandya did not bear consistent fruits. Pandya came good only in one Test at Nottingham, bagging a five-wicket haul to pave the way for India’s win. But his batting left a lot to be desired. Pandya was finally dropped for the fifth Test at Southampton. India must look beyond Pandya for a seaming all-rounder. They have the option of Vijay Shankar or a spin-all-rounder in Ravindra Jadeja, who shone in his maiden Test in England at The Oval, cracking 99 runs and taking 7 wickets.
Virat Kohli is a work-in-progress as skipper
Although Kohli is the second most successful Indian Test skipper after MS Dhoni, the current Indian skipper is still a work-in-progress. His tendency to follow the ball to make changes in field placement has been criticised from all quarters. His bowling changes, team selections have also been ordinary, hurting Team India’s chances. Again, in the fifth Test at The Oval, Kohli let England pile up 332 after being reduced to 181/7. Kohli let the game drift, as he let Jos Buttler to retain strike while batting with tailenders. India had to pay with the match. Kohli must learn from these mistakes and do a better job as a skipper in Australia.
Do not let go winning situations
India let England off the hook many times in the 1-4 series loss. In the first Test at Birmingham, India had reduced England to 87/7 before Sam Curran’s 63 helped them post 180. India lost the Test by 31 runs. Again, in the fifth Test at The Oval, England were struggling at 181/7 in the first innings before posting 332. India lost the Test by 118 runs. India had to learn to polish off the tail quickly and put the team in driver’s seat.