Joe Root’s side has been far superior with the bat and ball while the Indian batsmen, barring Virat Kohli, have struggled to adapt to English conditions.
That is no surprise considering the tourists only played one warm-up game (a game that was shortened to three days on India’s request) with the red ball against Essex last month.
Their poor displays saw ex-India skipper Sunil Gavaskar criticise the BCCI for not scheduling more practice red-ball games in the build-up for a crucial England series.
Following his comments, we look back at every tour since 2002 and how many practice games India played and whether it made any positive impact in the England Test series’.
India had no shortage of match practice on their tour of England 16 years ago with the BCCI arranging five first-class warm-up matches to prepare for the four-match Test series in July. A West Indies’ ‘A’ side featuring a young Chris Gayle saw the Indians draw the three-day match before the tourists got their first and only win before the Test series in the 66-run triumph against Hampshire.
A few days later, Sachin Tendulkar hit 169 in a rain-hit drawn clash against Worcestershire while Virender Sehwag (142) and Harbhajan Singh (7-83) repeated the result against Essex. Sehwag added another ton in their final warm-up against Derbyshire.
Those matches as well as their ODI tri-series against England and Sri Lanka saw India fare well when five-day action began in late July. Despite losing by 170 runs in the first Test, Sehwag (106) and Rahul Dravid (115) salvaged a draw at Trent Bridge. Tendulkar’s superb 193 sealed an innings victory to level the series before Rahul Dravid’s 217 meant the fourth and final Test ended in a draw.
WARM UP MATCHES (RED-BALL): FIVE, WON: 1, DRAW: 4, LOST: 0
FOUR-MATCH TEST SERIES: DREW 1-1
With the likes of Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Dravid and Anil Kumble, India had plenty of experience in their squad. Three warm-up games were scheduled against Sussex, England Lions and Sri Lanka ‘A’ – all of which ended in a draw. Laxman, Dinesh Karthik, Gautam Gambhir and Dravid made an instant impact with half-centuries while Kumble took three scalps against Sussex. Facing an England Lions side which featured Stuart Broad, Tendulkar (171), MS Dhoni (76) and Yuvraj Singh (59) fared well with the bat while Dravid’s 67 in between the second and third Test saw the Indians draw against Sri Lanka ‘A’.
When the first Test came around in July, India’s preparations paid off. After drawing the Lord’s Test, they came out seven-wicket winners at Trent Bridge – enough to win the series.
WARM-UP MATCHES: THREE, WON: 3, DRAW: 3, LOST: 0
THREE-MATCH TEST SERIES: WON 1-0
Like 2018, the Indians had one warm-up game before the first Test but surprisingly the management left out key players MS Dhoni, Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh for the game. Suresh Raina managed to get a century against a Somerset side which featured England opener Andrew Strauss. While that game ended in a draw, the lack of preparation was there to see with India losing the first two Tests by 196 and 319 runs respectively. Even a two-day game against Northamptonshire didn’t do them any good as they were beaten by an innings in their next two Tests.
WARM-UP MATCHES: TWO, WON: 0, DRAW: 2, LOST: 0
FOUR-MATCH TEST SERIES: LOST 4-0
It was the first time the Indians played a five-match Test series in England since 1959 with the BCCI only lining up two warm-up games. Both were held within a week ahead of the opening game at Trent Bridge. Against Leicestershire, Shikhar Dhawan scored an unbeaten 60 in the draw with Ishant taking 2-64. Facing Derbyshire, Cheteshwar Pujara and Stuart Binny hit identical scores of 81 as the tourists went into the series on the back of a five-wicket win. But against England, although India took a 1-0 lead in the second Test, Alastair Cook’s side bounced back to win the remaining three games.
WARM-UP MATCHES: TWO, WON: 1, DRAW: 1, LOST: 0
FIVE-MATCH TEST SERIES: LOST 3-1
Following their innings defeat at Lord’s, Virat Kohli and his men trail 0-2 and have their backs firmly against the wall. Only once in the history of Test cricket has any team managed to come back from 0-2 down to win a five-match series. That occurred all the way back in 1936-37 when Australia rebounded from defeats in the opening two Tests to capture the series 3-2.
India don’t have much in the form of inspiration with regards to dramatic comebacks in Tests. However, they can take comfort from the fact that they have scripted fine wins in adverse conditions on overseas shores.
Here, we look at four of India’s most memorable overseas Test wins.
AUSTRALIA V INDIA, MELBOURNE 1981
In what was India’s fourth ever tour of Australia, the Sunil Gavaskar-led team endured a disappointing time in the Benson and Hedges World Series where they won just three of the 10 ODI matches.
When the attention shifted to the five-day format, India were thrashed by an innings in the first Test at Sydney. The visitors did well to hang on for a draw in the second Test before doing the unthinkable at Melbourne.
Gundappa Vishwanath’s 117 helped India post 237 in their first innings but the hosts replied by piling on 419 runs. Facing a huge first-innings deficit, Gavaskar and his opening partner Chetan Chauhan added 165 runs for the first wicket as India posted 324. Chasing just 143 for victory, Australia were bundled out for 83 in the final innings with Kapil Dev picking up a five-wicket haul to lead India to a memorable win.
WEST INDIA V INDIA, PORT OF SPAIN 1976
In their tour of the Caribbean in 1976, India started the series on a poor note as they were handed an innings defeat in the first Test. They dominated the second Test which ended in draw but once again found themselves on the back foot in the third match.
Viv Richard’s counter-attacking 177 helped the hosts post 359 in the first innings to which India could only reply with a total of 228. Having taken a first innings lead of 131 runs, West Indies declared their second innings at 271-6 to set India a mammoth target of 403.
Gavaskar once again turned hero for India with a fine 102 and he found able support in Mohinder Amarnath who scored 85. India ultimately chased down the target with six wickets to spare as they became only the second side in history to successfully chase a target of over 400 in the final innings.
AUSTRALIA V INDIA, ADELAIDE 2003
The Sourav Ganguly-led Indians started their 2003-04 tour of Australia on the front foot with an excellent draw in the first Test at Brisbane where the skipper led the way with a ton.
In the second Test at Adelaide, India were at the receiving end of a Ricky Ponting masterclass as the Aussie batsman’s 242 led the hosts to a gigantic total of 556 runs in their first innings.
India were in deep trouble at 85-4 before Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman stitched together a 303-run partnership. India ultimately posted 523 runs with Dravid scoring 233. The Test seemed headed for a tame draw when the hosts came out to bat on the fourth day before Ajit Agarkar’s sensational 6-41 saw them bowled out for 196 in the second innings. Chasing 230 in the final innings, Dravid was the star with the bat once again as his unbeaten 72 guided India to a four-wicket win.
SOUTH AFRICA V INDIA, DURBAN 2010
Sachin Tendulkar’s 50th ton went in vain as India were handed a comprehensive innings defeat in the first Test at Centurion.
In the second Test at Durban, Dale Steyn (6-50) ran through India’s batting line-up in overcast conditions as the visitors were bowled out for 205 in their first innings.
Zaheer Khan (3-36) and Harbhajan Singh (4-10) then shone with the ball for India as South Africa were bowled out for just 131 in their reply. With a 74-run first innings lead, India still found themselves in trouble at 56-4 in the second innings before Laxman played a gem of a knock (96) to help the side post 228 runs.
Chasing 303 to win in the final innings, South Africa’s batsmen struggled and were bowled out for 215 with Zaheer Khan (3-57) and S Sreesanth (3-45) delivering for India.
Defeats are part of professional sport. India lost the three-Test series 2-1 in South Africa earlier in the year but most Indian fans were proud of that result as it was some of the highest quality of cricket played by any Indian team away from home on a sustained basis.
But what the Indian team – No1 in Test rankings – did in the second match at Lord’s was unacceptable to the point of being revolting. As clinical as England were, losing a Test inside effectively two days is not acceptable for any decent Test side, forget a top-ranked team.
It’s time for some serious changes and it has to start right at the top. Not with Virat Kohli, but Ravi Shastri.
The current India coach lost out to Anil Kumble when interviews were held for the post in 2016. It was bold decision by the Indian management – led by Cricket Advisory Committee of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly – which saw a period of new guidelines for team selection and strict adherence to discipline.
India registered Test series wins at home against England (4-0), New Zealand (3-0) and Australia (2-1). But one year down the line, reports of rift between Kohli and Kumble surfaced. Apparently, the entire BCCI machinery failed to broker peace and Kumble left his post after India lost the Champions Trophy final to Pakistan last year.
Shastri, who has already developed a great rapport with Kohli as team director before losing the job to Kumble, came right back in 2017 and the Indian dressing room relaxed. And by what we saw in England, maybe a bit too relaxed.
It is true coaches at the international level are more man-managers than anything else. But it is also their job to be an authority figure, especially if the team is young, and step in if the side is losing its way.
Unfortunately, Shastri does not come across as a person who will crack the whip and make the players pull up their socks. This Indian team begins and ends at Kohli, be it batting, leadership or team selection.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was dropped in South Africa for the second Test despite taking six wickets in the first and scoring runs.
Then in the ongoing series in England, India went in one spinner short in Birmingham even as the wicket promised and ultimately provided help to spinners. In the second Test at Lord’s, they selected Kuldeep Yadav despite heavy rain and ended up one seamer short and were forced to hide two spinners – Ravi Ashwin and Kuldeep.
What’s more, the Indian team took five days off before the start of the five-Test series in England. Not only that, the Indians had just one truncated warm-up game before the first Test. That the batsmen were clueless against the moving ball therefore didn’t come as a surprise.
It’s all well and good to say the right things and help those around you relax. But as an international coach, it is important to be able to pull the handbrake when the team bus is going off the road. Shastri is not that guy.
Someone like Kumble would not have allowed some of the selection decisions taken in the past year. And he would definitely not have given five days off before a five-Test series in England. The players need to be relaxed, but not at the expense of losing their edge or focus.
Kohli is an exemplary player and motivator, but even he is susceptible to mistakes. It’s high time the BCCI realises that it is important to have another authoritative figure in the dressing room. The players, and Kohli, might feel uncomfortable but they have brought it upon themselves by losing inside two days in London.