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An English lesson on how not to play a Test series in India

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7th March, 2021
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Congratulations to the Indian cricket team for reaching the World Test Championship final.

It is a thoroughly deserved accomplishment by a team that is on its way to becoming an all-time great team.

The Indians hammered the English by an innings and 25 runs in the final Test at Ahmedabad. England won the toss, batted on a flat pitch for the first innings and yet lost comprehensively.

If this were a golf match, it was like getting a high handicap and yet getting beaten by a distance. England are no match to India in these conditions and certainly not against this bundle of talent.

Why did England lose this Ahmedabad leg of the series?

The English think tanks over the years have relied on too many preset theories. Some of them have worked, and most have not worked. For example, the theory to take tall fast bowlers to Australia worked brilliantly in the 2010 Ashes. However, in this Ahmedabad leg of the series, most of their theories were ridiculous.

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Let me list out a few of these bloopers.

If it is a pink-ball Test, you load up the team with seamers
Apparently, the pink ball was swinging around the corners during practice. The limited history of pink-ball cricket also suggested a partiality towards swing and seam bowling.

So the English team disregarded the dry and barren pitch, and the impact of Indian heat on swing and seam, and went with four seamers. We all know now how this turned out for them.

James Anderson drops a catch

(Photo by Philip Brown/Getty Images)

If there are two left handers, don’t bowl the left-arm orthodox spinner
Jack Leach has been the best bowler for England in India. He has looked threatening every time he bowled and troubled top-class players like Cheteshwar Pujara.

What did the English do when Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar were at the crease? They bowled the hit-me off spin of Dominic Bess and the part-time off spin of Joe Root.

On a turning pitch, the bowler who attacks the stumps is extremely dangerous. The batsmen have to play at every delivery, and the natural variation off the pitch will threaten both the edges of the bat.

How many times have the English seen Shane Warne throw the ball wide to left handers, get them bowled, or have made them reach out and hit the ball to cover in the air?

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Still, no, we are English, and we will play by the theory that the bowler who can take the ball away from the bat is the one we will play.

England captain Joe Root.

(Julian Finney/Getty Images)

If the ball starts to turn, we will lose
When the first ball turned and kicked up dust on the first day of the second Test at Chepauk, England lost the mental battle.

England historically have been one of the more successful Test teams in India. They have won more Test series in India than the mighty Aussies in the past 30 years.

Rather than taking confidence from such past performances, the English media started to whine and engendered a defeatist environment for the English players.

The players have not come out and said anything negative. However, these kinds of negative vibes find a way to reach the players and impact the meek adversely.

Unfortunately, this English batting unit does not contain a Kevin Pietersen or an Alastair Cook to fight this kind of negativity.

Ben Stokes tried, but he is not as skilled with the bat as Pietersen was against high-quality spin bowling. Even the great Joe Root appeared to have gone into a shell after he top edged a sweep in Chennai.

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Ben Stokes

(Photo by Surjeet Yadav/Getty Images)

No plan B when the sweep fails
England came to the sub-continent with one trick up their sleeve against the spin bowlers: the sweep shot. The strategy worked brilliantly until the first Test at Chepauk.

Once Joe Root top edged the sweep against Axar Patel on the bouncier Chepauk track, they were clueless about how to combat the Indian spinners.

Even if you have played just one Test, we shall rotate
Jos Buttler is one of England’s most talented and fighting cricketers. Think about the various pressure-cooker situations that English teams have been in recent times. You would remember Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes carrying them to victory or safety.

How on earth will you decide to rotate out such a key player? The reason for this is that dogmatic adherence to theories.

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India and England have the deepest pool of talent in today’s cricketing world. They can put together two teams each and can compete well against one another.

It was disappointing for me as a cricket fan to see the English lie down and get rolled by the Indian juggernaut in this series’ last three Tests.

I hope that cricket during the English summer will be hard fought and produce exemplary cricket for all of us to enjoy.