Five things we learned in the first India v England Test

Sport360 staff 14/11/2016
Plenty of lessons learned: India v England.

Hameed is here to stay

England pushed the 19-year-old into the unforgiving arena of Tests in the subcontinent. But the youngster showed immense composure and even though the wicket was flat, his technique and temperament were top class.

Rashid is finding his touch

Leg spinners struggle more than other bowlers to get their bearings right. But Rashid was pretty much spot on in the first Test. He found the right pace and trajectory to bowl on a flat Rajkot surface and richly deserved his seven wickets.

India depend heavily on Ashwin

India’s entire game-plan in Tests depends on Ravi Ashwin. The team relies heavily on him for wickets and his form with the bat at No. 6 position is critical, a we saw in the first Test where his 70 in the first innings and 32 in the second arguably saved the match.

Gambhir is not the answer

The 35-year-old left-handed opener has changed his stance, but that has not resulted in a more secure technique. He looked uncertain with his footwork and fell lbw and edging to slip off the fast bowlers for 29 and 0. Not good enough.

Toss will have major impact

The Indians are almost certain to prepare dry surfaces for the remaining matches and some might help spinners from Day One itself. The team that bats first, thus, is most likely to put up a big score and dictate terms.

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Cricket Xtra: Smith spot on to say Aussie cricket's in turmoil

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Struggling: Australian cricket.

Steven Smith said former South African skipper Graeme Smith didn’t know what he was talking about when he said Australian cricket is in turmoil as he is an outsider. But when results are so shocking, it doesn’t take a genius to see something is seriously wrong Down Under.

And that is despite being led by a captain in Smith, who is in control of his own game and holds the respect of the squad.

The Aussies have been in free-fall for a couple of seasons. They have been whitewashed in Tests in Sri Lanka and against Pakistan in the UAE, and were crushed 5-0 by South Africa in their recent ODI series.

In the last two years, the Aussies have won 12 Tests and lost seven. Out of those 12 wins, four came against the West Indies. In the ODIs, the record is better – 33 wins and 15 defeats. But if we look at the past 12 months, the gap closes to 14 wins and 11 defeats.

The most astonishing aspect about Australia’s cricket is the way they have crumbled under pressure. Losing 3-0 in Tests in Sri Lanka this year and surrendering 5-0 to the Proteas in ODIs show that once things start to go bad, there is no stopping it.

We must remember this Australian team was at its peak fairly recently. They defeated England 5-0 in the Ashes at home in 2014 and won the World Cup last year. Yes, there have been a few major retirements in Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson but the core of the side is intact and the results can’t be attributed to just the absence of a couple of names.

It can’t be a matter of technique or adverse conditions, because the Aussies were blanked on familiar pitches in South Africa and were then bowled out for 85 at home by a Proteas attack missing Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. It’s a much deeper malaise which Graeme rightly pointed out.

Firstly, the rotation policy adopted to keep the players fresh resulted in a situation where the Australians travelled to South Africa for the ODIs without frontline pacemen Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood and the replacements were nowhere near as good enough.

While the Proteas too don’t have two main pacers at the moment, they have quality back up and therefore are not feeling the pinch.

In the batting department, outside of captain Smith and opener David Warner, nobody inspires confidence or puts any fear in the mind of opposition bowlers. What this has done is somehow devalued a spot in the Australian team, where just about anybody is being given a shot with fingers crossed.

The situation will come to the fore next year as well as the Australian board has decided to play a T20 match against Sri Lanka in Adelaide one day before their first Test in India, which is scheduled to begin on February 23. That means there will be two completely different set of squads representing Australia and there is no way both will be of the highest possible quality.

If there is a feeling the value associated with representing Australia has diminished, it will only be reinforced. The Aussies had a golden chance to build on the success of their World Cup campaign last year. But they have taken their foot off the pedal and not plugged the gaps, especially in batting which has led to a second total below 100 in Tests in a year and a half.

They should have realised the ageing Chris Rogers and struggling Michael Clarke weren’t going to be around much longer. Whoever the incumbents were must have been earmarked and given a long run. That they decided to give Adam Voges a Test debut at the age of 36 in June last year is a proof of lack of planning over the past few seasons.

Just think about some retired Australian players who had to fight tooth and nail just to make it to the team a decade or so back. They were high-quality cricketers who couldn’t find a permanent spot in the side because there were some outstanding cricketers delivering on a regular basis.

Darren Lehmann and Mike Hussey had to struggle for a decade to make the cut, Michael Bevan barely got a look in when it came to Tests, pacers like Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz had to wait for the main bowlers to be injured while Stuart MacGill was forced to fight for a spot with Shane Warne.

How times have changed.

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Kohli refuses to criticise Indian spinners

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Virat Kohli speaks at the press conference after the Rajkot Test.

Indian captain Virat Kohli batted 98 balls under immense pressure to help India draw the first Test of the five-match series against England at Rajkot.

Kohli’s batting usually tends to be of the attacking variety, but on Sunday, he showed the other side of his game as he played India out of trouble on what was a nervous final session for the Indian team.

“(It was a) good opportunity to find out new things about your game. That is what I spoke to Jadeja (about) as well. It’s a situation, it can’t get better than that to find another aspect of your game. Especially in Test cricket, we have been a positive side and played for a result,” said Kohli

“To play against the momentum, it requires skill. It is very important to convince yourself that you can get through those tough periods. You trust your defence and trust that you can negotiate anything that is thrown at you.”

The Indian skipper felt that the five catches that India put down in England’s first innings cost the hosts in a big way. England went on to score 537 in that innings and India were always playing catch up after that.

“We could have been better on day one and day two. We dropped five catches and the opposition can take the game away from you. England are a side that we are not taking for granted,” he added.

Kohli also refused to criticise the Indian spinners, who were out-bowled by their English counterparts. India’s premier spin bowler Ravinchardan Ashwin, who is the number one bowler on the ICC Test Rankings, had a game to forget with the ball in hand – picking up just four wickets and conceding over 200 runs.

According to Kohli, the Indian spinners were unfortunate to bowl during periods when the pitch was very batsmen-friendly.

“They (spinners) bowled on the first two days, where the wicket was really good to bat on. Not taking anything away from the England bowlers, but with 540 on the board, it’s a different ball game. We need to correct the areas before going to Vizag,” said Kohli.

With the series level at 0-0, the second Test will be held at Visakhapatnam, starting Thursday.

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