India’s fast bowlers took 19 out of 20 England wickets in Nottingham before off-spinner Ravi Ashwin finished the match 10 minutes into Wednesday’s fifth and final day by dismissing James Anderson.
India, who have relied heavily on spinners over the years, now have a potent pace attack. At Trent Bridge, all-rounder Hardik Pandya took 5-28 in England’s first innings while fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah snared 5-85 in second.
Moreover, India’s best seam bowler – Bhuvneshwar Kumar – is injured and yet to play a Test this series.
When asked if this is India’s best ever pace attack, AFP quoted Shastri as saying: “By a mile, by a mile. No (other India) team comes even close.”
Bumrah bowled a marathon 26 overs on Tuesday, which is remarkable as this was his first competitive match since suffering a thumb injury in a Twenty20 against Ireland in Dublin on June 27.
“He is different, he is like when (Lasith) Malinga came on the scene or a Mitchell Johnson,” said Shastri of the 24-year-old Bumrah, who played his first Test against South Africa in Cape Town in January.
“He has that element of surprise. With that long spell he surprised us as well – almost 30 overs in that one innings, for someone who has not played for a month and a half is commendable.”
India have won just one of their six previous series outside of Asia – against West Indies. But Shastri insists his team can be a force abroad.
“In the four years I’ve been doing this job, I think if you look at a clinical performance overseas, I think this has to be the best. When you look at all three departments, they stood up. As a batting unit, as a catching unit and as a bowling unit, so you can’t ask for more.
“The endeavour of this team is to be the best travelling team in the world. And I believe they’re almost there. In India, we know what we can do. Especially if we play in conditions that suit us, very few teams will have a sniff.
“But to go to South Africa, England, Australia and try and win there, that’s the endeavour of this team and they have it in them.”
India wrapped up a massive 203-run win in Trent Bridge to make it 1-2 in the five-match series. Fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya picked up five-wicket hauls while captain Virat Kohli led the way with the bat, scoring 200 runs, as the visitors put in one of their most dominant performances overseas.
After the match, captain Kohli said the team stood by those affected by one of the worst floods in a century in the Indian state of Kerala.
“We as a team want to dedicate the victory to the flood victims back home in Kerala. People are going through a lot, and this is the least we can do,” Kohli said.
According to reports, the Indian team also dedicated their entire match fees to the flood victims.
Another one bites the dust. As India looked to get back up on their feet after batting debacles in the first two Tests, they sacrificed another proven performer in the pursuit of results.
It’s a clear that Virat Kohli‘s Indian team values results over everything else. Sheer grit shown without any actual results gets forgotten a lot sooner than should be the case. During the last tour of England, opener Murali Vijay scored 146 and 52 in the Nottingham Test. This year, he was dropped for the third match at Trent Bridge and his spot went to Shikhar Dhawan.
Dhawan has his own weaknesses against the away-moving ball but credit to him for adding 60 for the opening stand in Trent Bridge. But that is beside the point. The fact is when Kohli picked the playing XI, he had more faith in the busy cricket of Dhawan than the steadiness of Vijay. Admitted, Vijay bagged a pair in the second Test but apart from Kohli, and bowlers/all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Ravi Ashwin, no one scored any runs there. KL Rahul’s highest score in four innings was 13 but he retained his spot.
Slowly, the Indian Test team is pushing the ‘grafters’ to the sidelines. Positive is a new buzzword and if you look like your are always on the hunt – for fours, singles or wickets – there is a greater chance of acceptance within the team.
It started with Cheteshwar Pujara in 2016. He wasn’t considered forceful enough, was told so and ended up getting involved in six of the next eight Indian run-outs in Tests. And he was run-out by his captain Kohli in the second Test at Lord’s after being dropped from the first.
Ravindra Jadeja has been reduced to a Test specialist but when the opportunity came to have two spinners in the second Test at Lord’s – even though it was a wrong call – India went with wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav and not the left-armer who was instrumental in making India the No1 Test team in the world. What’s worse, Kuldeep got a pair and bowled nine fruitless overs. Jadeja couldn’t have been worse.
This new strategy might still work for the Indian team. Who knows, they might spark a remarkable comeback in the five-Test series in England, do even better in Australia and prove the aggression-first policy as the right one.
But that won’t give any comfort to the likes of Vijay, Jadeja and Pujara who are basically Test specialists now and are being squeezed out in favour of those who are good enough and do a bit of everything.