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The Indian team’s defeat at Southampton followed a familiar pattern, a pattern which is all too familiar if you are an Indian fan.
The inconsistent batting, the inability of the bowlers to dismiss the lower order – all the ingredients of an Indian overseas loss – were present in this defeat as well. The biggest difference between Trent Bridge and Southampton was India had somehow avoided the clichés in the former but it came back to haunt them in the latter.
The Indian team arrived in England with a hope of winning the series. The series was against an opponent who were going through their own troubles. The English team had just drawn a series at home against an inexperienced Pakistan team.
The home team were struggling to find the right combination and, with the captain and their most experienced opener misfiring, India had a great chance to put this past the hosts.
For all the troubles England had, the visiting team had greater issues. The biggest problem for India was that, barring Virat Kohli, the batsmen took two Tests to get used to the conditions.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, who are the pillars of Indian batting, struggled at the start of the series and came into their own only after Trent Bridge. The Indian lower order was non-existent, and that was the biggest difference between the two sides.
Hardik Pandya batted at No.6 throughout the series – which is way too high. It is unfair to be too harsh on Rishabh Pant, however, as he is just 20 and was making his debut. He will learn for the better as he plays more Test cricket.
After Pant though, India had Ravichandran Ashwin followed by the three pacers. The attack also struggled to close out the innings multiple times which resulted in two defeats.
The lower order batters showed no fight and did not put a price on their wicket. The batting of Mohammad Shami after Ajinkya Rahane got out at Southampton was cringe-worthy.
The Indian batting side has just five specialist batters in the XI and, for them to succeed overseas, the top order should convert the starts they get.
Even though the English pitches had a lot in it for the bowlers, the Indian openers got off to some decent starts. KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan both got some starts but did not capitalise on the same. Except for Kohli and Pujara, no one in the Indian team got hundreds.
In a team which has its tail starting at No.6, the top order contributions are crucial.
This is India’s second straight series loss overseas and the issues which were seen in South Africa still exist.
The Indian team travels to Australia later this year and I hope that the team management does some tough introspection to make the necessary adjustments before boarding that plane to down under.
The Australian pitches will be flatter and probably will not have as much swing as in England but, again, the Indian team will need the right personnel to take advantage of those conditions.
Like England, Australia too will have a good lower order with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, who will frustrate our attack and a good plan against them will be required.
The Indian team have the ability to win a series overseas but poor selection and captaincy are the reasons for their repeated failures.
India have a home series coming up against West Indies before they fly out to Australia.
I hope the team management and the selectors make use of that opportunity as, going by recent history, India aren’t playing too many practice games in Australia.