England captain Joe Root missed out on yet another Test ton as he was run out by Virat Kohli for 80 on the opening day of the first Test in Birmingham.
Root looked in fine touch and was nearing his first century after 10 straight fifties. But in the 63rd over, Jonny Bairstow tucked Ravi Ashwin to midwicket and Root decided to go for a risky second.
Kohli swooped in from mid-wicket, collected the ball, turned around and threw the ball in one motion. Root was found short at the non-striker’s end as the India skipper got a direct hit.
The India captain, as expected, was thrilled and made everyone know about it. Along with his usual extravagant celebration and finger-on-the-lips sign, Kohli also did the ‘mic drop’ sign.
Cricket fans will remember Root did the ‘mic drop’ celebration after scoring a series-winning century in the Leeds ODI against India. After that celebration, Root said he immediately regretted his celebration, which he called a ‘car crash’.
But the Indians, and Kohli, haven’t forgotten. See the video below.
Getting dropped from any team is not the end of the world. Team combination, pitch conditions and opposition some time force team managements to make strategic calls in the final XI. However, the decision to drop Cheteshwar Pujara from the India side for the first Test against England will be hard to digest not just for the player but for many cricket fans as well.
Pujara has been out for form in red ball cricket, there is no doubt about that. He would have been under pressure had he been selected for the first Test; his recent stint in county cricket with Yorkshire was abysmal – an average of less than 15 after 12 innings.
Even so, Pujara is a Test specialist. Whenever India tour outside Asia, Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have generally been seen as the batsmen who can hold one end together when the conditions are challenging. But for the first Test that started on Wednesday, India went in for the uncertain batting for Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order instead of the generally assured, even if sometimes unproductive, batting of Pujara.
In the last three years, Cheteshwar Pujara has made 2458 Test runs. Virat Kohli is the only Indian batsman to make more. #ENGvIND— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) August 1, 2018
Yes, Pujara doesn’t score freely but in Tests you need one player in you bating order to be able to block a session or so. That someone like Dhawan who bagged a pair in the warm-up game before the Test and has a suspect technique against the moving ball was chosen ahead of Pujara would be a bitter pill to swallow.
In 2016, Pujara was called out by the Indian management for slow scoring. From 2016 onwards, he got involved in six of India’s next eight run outs. His solid technique has also started to desert him with South Africa pace ace Dale Steyn dismissing him for successive ducks in English domestic cricket in June.
And now he has lost his place to Dhawan whose technique against the moving ball is flaky. Pujara is not the fittest 30-year-old in the world and offers a very specific style of batting. A player who was once called the next Rahul Dravid of Indian cricket is now seen as a batsmen with excess baggage without substantial returns. It will be a long way back for Pujara if Dhawan and KL Rahul cement their positions.
Potential is a very tricky trait in sport. It promises a lot but when the player fails to live up to it, it doesn’t mean an automatic exit from the team. The possibility of what can be is too endearing and many teams hold on to that dream a lot longer than the player himself.
India fast bowler Ishant Sharma is one such player. Ever since he made his debut in 2007, Ishant has promised the moon. His height, natural bounce, pace and zip off the pitch raised hopes of a superstar in the making. But 11 years after a dream start that included a sensational tour of Australia in 2008, Ishant can’t even be called the best Indian fast bowler of this generation.
Every pacer worth his salt has that one big win under his belt. England’s Andrew Flintoff has the 2005 Ashes. James Anderson has the 2011 Ashes win in Australia and the 2012 series win in India. Zaheer Khan has the 2007 Test series win in England and the 2011 World Cup triumph. Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir has the 2017 Champions Trophy final winning spell.
There are many contemporary quicks who have that one moment where they made the difference and etched their name in the history books.
Early Call—Ishant Sharma to have one of the most fruitful Test series in his career. 20+ wickets if he stayed fit. #EngvInd— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) July 31, 2018
Ishant doesn’t have that yet. For a major chunk of his career, Ishant was labelled an unlucky bowler who beat the bat a lot without getting wickets. It took the Delhi pacer the best part of a decade to pull his length back and concentrate on bowling straight to get the lbw calls and edges.
Yes he does have the seven-wicket haul in the 2014 Lord’s Test and two wickets in the 2013 Champions Trophy final – both in winning causes – but that doesn’t define a career.
The 29-year-old has played 82 Tests but only has 238 wickets. That’s not even three scalps per match. The best in the business are closer to four and five per game.
And yet, he has time on his side. That’s the benefit of starting as a teenager. Ishant is at his peak at the moment with his body and action as good as it will ever be. He has played county cricket in England this season and now concentrates on red ball cricket almost exclusively.
He is not the No1 fast bowler in the Indian team. Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami are ahead of him when it comes to skill and effectiveness. But Ishant has experience. And with injuries to Bumrah and Bhuvi, along with indifferent form and personal issues of Shami, Sharma is the leader of the pack.
The five-Test series in England is the opportunity for him to take the bull by the horns and give it his all. This stretch of international cricket is the best shot Ishant has of carving a niche for himself. And it’s high time the tall quick showed what he can really do with the ball.