It doesn’t sound as bad as Adelaide because it isn’t. It doesn’t hurt as much either because India were not as bad either. But a 227-run margin is pretty huge and Virat Kohli would have, in all probability, realised that he and his team were completely outplayed by an England team that was simply better in all departments of the game.

Joe Root’s men put in a professional performance on a pitch that demanded patience more than belligerence. They had plans in place and they executed them well to earn their fourth win in India since 2006. It is a pretty good record for a team given how dominant India have been at home since the turn of the century.

India crushed England in 2016 but this time around, Root and Co have had great preparation. They won in Sri Lanka and are already in tune with the rhythm they need in the subcontinent.

Loss of focus

A hallmark of England’s play in the first Test was the patience they showed. They were almost never in a hurry. After they won the toss, they knew they had to bat big and they did that thanks to Root’s double century. Most teams look to break the bank after they get going but England, thanks perhaps to Root’s approach, kept things very steady.

It frustrated India. Kohli’s bowlers were kept out on the field for 190.1 overs. That is a lot of overs and it showed in India’s poor body language. Rishabh Pant kept telling anyone who would listen, “body language neeche ho rahi hai” but the long haul took a toll. It also left India a little unsure.

One of England’s best ever Test wins: Reactions to Kohli and Co’s heavy defeat in Chennai

When wickets are falling quickly, it keeps the focus going and the players involved. Here, it just seemed to meander and while it did that, India bowled 20 no-balls, dropped four catches, missed one stumping opportunity and maybe a couple of run out chances.

It may not seem like much. But England went on to get 578 with that additional push from India. And when Kohli and Co came out to bat, the hosts were restricted to 337 with Root and Co taking some brilliant catches. That there was perhaps the match.

If India had restricted England to a smaller total, they might have had a better chance in the fourth innings. But they didn’t and that was largely down to the ‘little’ things they did wrong.

Ind vs Eng since 2006 (in India)

Team Result Margin Ground Start Date
India draw - Nagpur 1 Mar 2006
India won 9 wickets Mohali 9 Mar 2006
India lost 212 runs Mumbai 18 Mar 2006
India won 6 wickets Chennai 11 Dec 2008
India draw - Mohali 19 Dec 2008
India won 9 wickets Ahmedabad 15 Nov 2012
India lost 10 wickets Mumbai 23 Nov 2012
India lost 7 wickets Kolkata 5 Dec 2012
India draw - Nagpur 13 Dec 2012
India draw - Rajkot 9 Nov 2016
India won 246 runs Visakhapatnam 17 Nov 2016
India won 8 wickets Mohali 26 Nov 2016
India won inns & 36 runs Mumbai 8 Dec 2016
India won inns & 75 runs Chennai 16 Dec 2016
India lost 227 runs Chennai 5 Feb 2021

Ind vs Eng since 2006 (in India)

Mat Won by India Won by England Tied Draw
15 7 4 0 4

Let down by batting or bowling?

In the post-match chat, Kohli felt that India did not put enough pressure on England and leaked way too many runs.

“Collectively as a bowling unit, fast bowlers and Ash (Ashwin Ravichandran), were good in the first innings but we also needed to contain a few more runs and create pressure.

“Having said that, it was a slow wicket and not helping the bowlers which made it easy for the batsmen to rotate strike and get into the game.”

Asked if the fourth and fifth bowlers – Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar – were not up to the mark, Kohli did not hide his disappointment.

“That’s a fair assessment. You need your bowling unit to step up and create pressure on the opposition. We didn’t achieve that in this game which is fine, lack of execution is acceptable but to understand our mindset was right is very important for us.”

While all that is fine, India need to look at their batting and fielding too. In good batting conditions, they were reduced to 73/4 and then to 225/6. If India wanted to save the match or even win it, they would have known that they needed to bat long in their first innings. But their approach showed that they perhaps had a different plan in mind.

Had they been as patient as England, maybe a draw would have played out but this team goes for a win at all costs.

Team selection

Washington batted well in the first innings and without his knock, India’s margin of defeat could perhaps have been even bigger but what about his bowling? Nadeem toiled but he was coming into the match without any red-ball cricket under his belt. Kohli felt that they were unable to execute their plans.

First innings

Nadeem: 44-4-167-2
Washington: 26-2-98-0

Second innings

Nadeem: 15-2-66-2
Washington: 1-0-1-0

But one has to wonder whether Kuldeep Yadav would have done better. A left-arm wrist spinner should be able to give the ball a bigger tweak and his angle would be different. Then, there is also the googly and the challenges that come with reading it.

Compared to Nadeem, Yadav has been travelling with the team and bowling to quality players in the nets as well. But Kohli has his own thought process on the matter.

“Not really, not at all,” said Kohli when asked about his decision to not pick Yadav in the playing XI. “When you play two off-spinners, Kuldeep more or less becomes a similar bowling option with him taking the ball away. You need variety in the bowling attack. So we were quite clear on the combination we wanted to play. So there are no regrets in that decision. Moving forward, we will think of combinations which will give us variety in the bowling attack. Not one dimensional, so these things are very important going forward.”

Yadav’s bowling should admittedly be of a higher level than Washington in the Test arena and the latter’s batting is way better, India have to think of what they want more. If Ravindra Jadeja was still fit, Kohli wouldn’t have been troubled but the Saurashtra all-rounder is a very tough act to follow and his shoes are really hard to fill.