Assured batting at the top of the order is in short supply in Indian cricket at the moment. India‘s Test team batting seems to be all about Virat Kohli with the rest of the line-up struggling to come close to him even collectively.
Cheteshwar Pujara, long seen as one of the most solid red-ball batsmen in the country, is now surplus to the team’s needs while those who had been backed to do well – like Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane – looked like a shadow of their former self in the first Test against England in Birmingham.
India’s batting is a serious headache at the moment as after a long time, they have the bowling to take 20 wickets cheaply on any surface that promises a result. Captain Kohli is batting on a different plane, scoring 200 himself at Edgbaston while their rest of the players accounted for 214.
The unimpressive technique of opener Shikhar Dhawan and the indifferent batting of KL Rahul means India are struggling. And as they look for a way to stop the bleeding, they should at least consider the next best options – Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal.
Prithvi Shaw is scoring consistently and at a great pace. Many were worried about his technique but he seems to be on a roll. Time to try him out as an opener for Team India? Let us not forget Mayank Agarwal also.. #IndiaA— Gaurav Sundararaman (@gaurav_sundar) August 5, 2018
The two batsmen are not part of the Test squad for the first three Tests and instead are fighting it out for the India ‘A’ team. Opener Shaw, who captained the Indian team to the Under-19 World Cup title earlier in the year, cracked 136 against South Africa ‘A’ in the ongoing unofficial Test in Bengaluru while adding 277 for the opening stand with Agarwal who himself scored a majestic 220.
Shaw has taken his tally to seven centuries in just 13 first-class matches with five fifties and already averages more than 57 since his debut last year. Agarwal, on the other hand, has now scored four centuries in his last eight matches – which include List A matches in England. Also, Agarwal finished the 2017-18 domestic season in India with 2,141 runs for his state Karnataka.
With India’s batting, apart from Kohli, looking clueless in English conditions, maybe it’s time to have a look at one of these two or both as top-ranked India can’t afford to see the same players fail over and over again.
Beyond Vijay, Dhawan and Rahul, it's now pretty clear the next in line are Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw. Both have impressed in every opportunity they've got. Priyank Panchal had a bumper 2016-17 season, but has fallen off a little since then.— Shashank Kishore (@captainshanky) August 5, 2018
In the end of a thrilling Test in Birmingham, it was the hosts who came trumps with a 31-run win. For the visitors, it was a case of so close and yet so far as skipper Virat Kohli’s titanic effort of 200 runs in a low-scoring Test went in vain.
As the attention now shifts to Lord’s for the second Test, we look at the key areas India need to improve upon.
India’s batting minus Kohli was their biggest drawback at Edgbaston with none of the other top-order batsman making any imapct.
The skipper himself accounted for 200 of the 436 runs in total scored by India with the next best batsman – Hardik Pandya – contributing 53 runs.
India will be hoping Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane provide a more meaningful contribution at Lord’s. The senior duo have played in English conditions and they will need to take more responsibility as the series progresses.
Apart from Vijay and Rahane, India have more headaches with the dismal form of Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul. Both batsmen seemed highly suspect against the moving ball at Edgbaston and India might consider playing just one of them as an opener at Lord’s.
This means a recall for Cheteshwar Pujara after the top-order batsman was dropped for the Edgbaston Test following his extended poor run with the bat. Pujara’s proven ability to wear out the red-ball could just be what the side needs with most Indian batsmen failing to spend any substantial time at the crease. It will still be huge risk reinstating him in the line-up but it can’t be much worse than what Dhawan and Rahul have served up so far.
Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Pandya were inconsistent with their lines and lengths and failed to put the England batsmen under pressure despite enjoying the luxury of a lively pitch which had something for the pacers for almost entire Test.
Their inconsistencies were in stark contrast to England’s pacers who constantly troubled India’s batsmen and did not allow them any breathing space.
With no update on Jasprit Bumrah’s recovery process so far, India could be forced to choose from the same set of pacers at Lord’s. As such, Shami and Umesh will need to reflect on where they went wrong at Edgbaston and up the ante at Lord’s.
As Ashwin’s performance at Edgbaston showed, spinners could have a big part to play in the remainder of the series if the heatwave in the UK continues. England’s left-handers looked at sea against Ashwin before Sam Curran took the attack to the off-spinner late in the second innings.
With India’s pacers apart from Ishant misfiring at Edgbaston, Kohli could field two spinners. That would mean sacrificing one pacer or Pandya. Umesh is more likely to sit if Kohli does go down this road.
Lord’s has traditionally had something for the spinners as Yasir Shah showed for Pakistan in 2016 with a ten-wicket match haul. In Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, Kohli has a solid pair of extra spinners and it could just be the attacking option India need to get back into the series.
While Virat Kohli has changed his Test line-up every single match since he took over the India captaincy, former skipper Sourav Ganguly has urged the current captain to resist that temptation in the second Test against England at Lord’s.
India fell to a 31-run defeat in the first Test of the five-match series at Edgbaston with the visitors’ batting – apart from that of the skipper himself – failing to perform.
“If you’ve to win a Test then everyone has to score runs. This was the first Test in a five-match series and I think this team has the capability to come back & play well. Ajinkya Rahane & Murali Vijay will have to show some determination since they have scored runs in these conditions before,” Ganguly wrote on his Instagram.
If you've to win a Test then everyone has to score runs. The other batsmen have to score 100's as well. #ViratKohli played very well otherwise India would have been out of the match on the 2nd day itself. This was the first Test in a 5 match series & I think this team has the capability to come back & play well. #AjinkyaRahane & #MuraliVijay will have to show some determination since they have scored runs in these conditions before. I don't think the captain is responsible for the loss. If you're the captain then you'll be criticised for a loss the same way as you're congratulated for a win. One criticism for @Virat.Kohli is that he should give a consistent run to his batters & more time before dropping them. The failure against swing in English conditions can't be used as an excuse any more as everyone knows that its what you get when you come to England. You can't be excused all the time & we have lost before in 2011 & 2014. You've to bat well. It's a very well known fact that the ball will swing in England the same way as Australia is known for its pacy wickets. So if previously you've scored runs there is no reason you can't now. The captain should give confidence to his players. It's his team & only he can change their mindset. He will have to sit with them & tell them that if he can do it so can they. He should give them time & tell them to go out & play without any fear. It is true that after continuous chopping & changing of the playing XI, players can get afraid that after all these years they've failed to garner the faith of the team management." The good thing about the great teams of the past - whether it be #Australia, #SouthAfrica or our very own team which won the Test series here in 2007 - was that the boys used to play both formats of the game - #SachinTendulkar, #RahulDravid, #VirenderSehwag, including myself. So even if you played badly in 1 or 2 matches you got a lot of time to get back into form at the international level. Playing & scoring 150 in first-class cricket can't compensate for international cricket. In this team no batsman except Virat plays all the formats. - SG
“One criticism for Virat Kohli is that he should give a consistent run to his batters & more time before dropping them. The failure against swing in English conditions can’t be used as an excuse any more as everyone knows that it’s what you get when you come to England,” he continued.
“You can’t be excused all the time & we have lost before in 2011 & 2014. You’ve to bat well. It’s a very well known fact that the ball will swing in England the same way as Australia is known for its pacy wickets. So if previously you’ve scored runs, there is no reason you can’t now.”
It remains to be seen if Kohli takes up the former India skipper’s advise in the Lord’s Test which gets underway on August 9.