Thirty minutes. That was all it took for India, rather Ravichandran Ashwin, to wrap up proceedings at the Wankhede Stadium on day five of the fourth Test. England’s run of Test series’ wins against this particular opponent since 2011 had come to an end as they went from an overnight 182/6 to 195 all out.
Four hundred. This was England’s first innings’ total on a pitch that took certifiable turn from day one. At stumps on the first day, they were placed at 288/5 and a whole lot of possibilities were envisaged for this Test over the course of the next four days. England then losing by an innings was not one of them.
When they did get to that total, after a fightback in the morning session on day two, everyone watching was convinced that they had enough runs on the board to trouble India, who by right would have been batting fourth on this turning track.
England’s spinners fluffed their lines
It puts the quality of England’s bowling attack – particularly their spinners – under keen focus. A 400-total was a throwback to their Test win in 2012 here, but back then, they had the world-class ability of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar to count upon.
“No disrespect to Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid but Swann and Panesar were world class bowlers in 2012. In these conditions you need that. Mo and Rash have bowled well, but they are not yet in that league,” said Alastair Cook after the loss.
It reflected upon how England were forced to include the third spinner in the first three Tests, even when Cook did not have enough confidence in Zafar Ansari or Gareth Batty. Coming to Mumbai with a 2-0 scoreline, they decided on an extra pacer, but even then it did not provide the necessary balance. The bottom-line is that England were on a hiding to nothing, irrespective of who they played, or whether they won the toss and batted first, or not.
“I don’t think it’s been easy. We have been put under pressure many times,” said Kohli after the series win. “I would give my team a lot of credit for bouncing back from those tough situations. We know England are a quality Test side. Even in this game after being 2-0 down, they put 400 runs in the first innings.”
The hallmark of champions
“This is not a team that will throw in the towel. They will fight and we saw another example of it. We were tested but we came out on top. If you are a champion team, you have to play like a champion team to win series and that’s what we did,” he added.
It begs a question, though. Since day three’s evening session, England’s demeanour in this fourth Test was not a fighting one. They let the game drift away when Jayant Yadav survived the initial onslaught. Then, barring Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, none of the batsmen showed the wherewithal to withstand Ashwin and company, not even in the slightest resemblance to what they attempted in Visakhapatnam.
Losing by an innings, thereafter, was gobsmacking. And Monday morning outlined the lack of fight in this travelling bunch. Too bad for them, there is Chennai still to come.
Too many sour grapes?
“I didn’t even know about it. I just laughed when Ashwin told me (what Anderson had said),” revealed Kohli after completing formalities on day five.
When talking about Anderson’s remarks on day four, the Indian captain took the high road. This is precisely what you are supposed to when you have just scored 640 runs in seven innings in a Test series against your so-called bogey opponent. Even so, this was not the most poignant moment in Kohli’s post-match press conference.
Later on, he was asked about the English batsmen’s technique against spin, and whether it should come under the same criticism as the Indian batsmen’s technique against pace when they tour abroad.
“I’m not going to sit here and comment about someone else’s faults. We accept defeat pretty gracefully. I’m no one or in no position to question someone else’s technique or someone else’s faults. They should understand it themselves and work on it. As international cricketers, it is their responsibility,” said Kohli.
This statement from Kohli exuded class. And it also reflected on the time back in 2014, when he had suffered the ignominy of averaging only 13.40 in five Tests in England. In that series, when Anderson had dismissed him four times, almost all of them similar, Kohli did not talk about how the pitch at Lord’s was too green, or the conditions at Old Trafford and the Oval did not suit Indian cricketers.
To be able to move the ball away from a classy batsman, and befuddling him enough to send him scurrying back to the drawing board, was brilliant to watch. Through that series, Anderson had the ball on a string, with Kohli unable to find a response. And the fast bowler was a focal point on which England’s 3-1 series win was built. Furthermore, along with Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann, he was also pivotal here in 2012.
Grace and mutual respect
Compared to four years ago, when he took 12 wickets in four Tests, Anderson’s returns this time around – four wickets in three Tests thus far – have been poor. The question augurs then, if he should be judged on this trip alone, or would he like history to remember him as the bowler who orchestrated England’s win here in 2012 with reverse swing?
Furthermore, Anderson also needs to answer about the journey of an international cricketer. And who better to ask than a fast bowler – someone who has to deliver the goods in different conditions, someone who has to adhere to rules that favour the batsmen, someone who has to undergo a strict regimen to stay fit and bowl quickly enough, with movement.
Maybe Kohli has developed as a batsman and India’s international calendar will test him in the years to come. Maybe Anderson is on a downward curve as a bowler, on his last legs.
Is it too difficult to assume that a cricketer goes through several stages of progression – and indeed regression with age – in his long career? Surely, this pertains to both batsmen and bowlers, both Anderson and Kohli.
But, in a heated environment, is it easy to forget the grace and mutual respect that should be afforded as a contemporary? Any reservations can certainly be addressed in television studios or autobiographies after retirement.
The scene of a comprehensive Test series win is not the best stage, at all.
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