India’s extraordinary reliance on Virat Kohli when playing outside Asia has been exposed this year, with the remainder of their batsmen incredibly averaging just 14 with the bat across five Tests in England and South Africa.
India, who will tour Australia this summer, were rolled for 107 and 130 by England this past week as they lost the second Test at Lord’s by a monstrous innings and 159 runs.
Despite being ranked the world’s number one Test team, India have won only two of their last 25 Tests in Australia, South Africa and England.
While historically India’s struggles in those countries were more to do with a lack of penetration with the ball than struggles with the blade, now it is their batting line-up which is floundering. India’s bowlers have been solid in South Africa and England this year but their batting has been astonishingly bad.
Across those two series, Kohli has piled up 526 runs at 53, while the remainder of India’s top seven have combined for a woeful 803 runs at 14. Take a look at the returns of the other nine batsmen and keeper-batsmen India have used in those series:
KL Rahul – 65 runs at 8.
Murali Vijay – 128 runs at 13.
Cheteshwar Pujara – 118 runs at 14.
Ajinkya Rahane – 105 runs at 17.
Shikhar Dhawan – 71 runs at 18.
Rohit Sharma – 78 runs at 19.
Hardik Pandya – 209 runs at 21.
Dinesh Karthik – 21 runs at 5.
Wriddhiman Saha – 8 runs at 4.
What makes those wretched statistics even worse is that the best average, albeit of just 21, has been earned by a relative rookie in Pandya, a 24-year-old batting all-rounder with just nine Tests to his name.
The other eight Indians who flopped are all experienced, with an average age of 31 and having each played between 25 and 59 Tests in their careers.
India have the oldest and most experienced Test batting unit in the world – they are less inclined than any other team to trial young batsmen in their line-up. That may change, however, if their batting veterans continue to fail miserably across the next three Tests in England.
Things aren’t about to get any easier for India’s batsmen, either, with the next Test being played at Trent Bridge, the seam-friendly venue where Australia were skittled for 60 in the last Ashes.
With England’s pace attack on fire, and India’s batsmen bar Kohli in the deepest of collective form troughs, there is every chance India could lose this series 5-0. That would put heavy pressure on the Indian selectors to drop one or more of their drastically-underperforming veteran batsmen for this summer’s four-Test series in Australia.
Should the likes of Pujara, Rahane and Vijay finish this run of eight Tests in England and South Africa with averages under 20 any of them could be discarded for the tour of Australia. What could save them are their good performances on India’s last Test tour of Australia, where that trio combined for 1082 runs at 51.
India’s batsmen made merry in that 2014 series in Australia thanks to the most pathetically-lifeless pitches I have ever seen served up across an entire Test series down under. Each and every surface in that series neutered the quicks, giving batsmen an outrageous advantage.
Unfortunately, that summer marked the start of a trend towards ultra-flat Test pitches in Australia. Each summer since, dead pitches have abounded in Australia. Australia’s elite pace attack could blast holes in the Indian batting line-up this summer if they were given traditional Australian decks with good pace and bounce.
Who knows, they still may do that? But, with no day-night Test in that series, India’s batsmen are unlikely to have to encounter any pace-friendly surfaces in Australia this summer.
That would be a massive relief for the world’s number one Test side, a line-up leaning ever so heavily on the best batsman on the planet, Virat Kohli.