Another final test match. Another dead rubber for India. A loss will be borderline embarrassing. A win will be much like changing a baby’s diaper after they have shat themselves. Sure, a fresh pair of Huggies may well prevent India’s anal rash, but the house still smells like turds.
I know what you’re thinking: “Wouldn’t the rash be on India’s buttocks instead of inside their anus?”
No, you’re wrong.
I’ve thought about this fecal analogy very carefully and for longer than I care to admit.
You see India’s rash goes much deeper than just the surface of its buttocks. From poor leadership to questionable tactics, to consistently forfeiting the advantage in tight games, India has repeatedly shot itself in the foot.
Anil Kumble’s forced resignation as head coach has deprived Indian cricket of the necessary counter-force to Kohli’s much vaunted ‘intent.’ This is the same intent that has led to him benching Rahane and Pujara in South Africa and England respectively – a move that has arguably dented the confidence of India’s two most capable specialist batsmen other than him.
On closer analysis, there is no consistent pattern to the faith he has shown or withheld from members of his team. Despite Ashwin’s refusal to consistently hit the rough on a tired Ageas Bowl surface, Kohli chose to persist with him, declining the services of India’s most potent seam attack ever. Stranger still was the belated decision to bring Pandya on in the 66th over for an unbroken and painfully ineffective nine-over spell.
A careful and analytical Kumble could have pushed back against these strange tactics better than enthusiastic commentator, lenient anti-corruption investigator, and ‘Yes Man,’ Ravi Shastri.
Towards the end of Kumble’s tenure, it became apparent that it was either Virat’s way or the highway. It was Captain Kohli or Coach Kumble. Jumbo did not stand a chance.
Lack of preparation and hubris
What’s the best way to prepare two of your toughest overseas assignments? Simple. Complain about the quality of warm-up sides teams and the weather.
However, an Indian complaining that the weather is too warm is as absurd an Englishman complaining that their food is too bland.
While India’s batting seemed undercooked in the first two games, their critically acclaimed bowling unit also took a while to get going. CricViz data from the first game showed that approximately 50% of all their deliveries were either drifting too far down leg or were too wide of the off stump. That was higher than the corresponding numbers in the next three games.
Root scored runs. Bairstow got stuck in. Sam Curran was absolutely ruthless. Even Keaton Jennings, a man born to run slip-catching drills, scored a series-high 42.
It is baffling that a team can be so confident that they settle for a mere 94 overs of bowling in the lead up to a big series.
It’s arrogant. It’s deluded. It came back to bite India in the butt. And whose to say that justice wasn’t served?
Bad luck or choking?
Granted that Bumrah’s absence for the first two games was not ideal. Sure, India missed Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s all-round skills throughout the series. And yes, losing four tosses in a row is terribly unfortunate.
But let’s get real. India choked. Again.
Remember Adelaide in 2014? Chasing 364, India collapsed from 242/2 to 315 all out. That was the first test of a series they eventually lost 2-0.
What about Galle in 2015? Sri Lanka went into the third innings with a large deficit, collapsed to 95/5 before India let them off the hook. Sri Lanka finished with 367, setting India 176 for victory. The Indians folded for 112.
Then they leaped to the top of the Test rankings with a string of home fixtures. That was until they ventured overseas earlier this year.
They folded for 135 chasing 208 for Victory at Cape Town. Lost 21/4 at Edgbaston. Then 7/61 at the Ageas Bowl.
How can Australia beat India without Smith and Warner? Win the toss, bat first, and crack open the celebratory champagne.
The truth is India have choked every time they’ve had to chase a moderately challenging target. This is not what anyone would expect from the top-ranked test side.
Number One. Really?
You should be fuming if you’re an Indian fan. A series victory would have made India the undisputed test champions of the world! Currently, there isn’t a single team in test cricket that tours well. India had their chance and blew it.
What is even more frustrating is that the Indians will not get an opportunity to make amends any time soon. They will not be touring either England or South Africa as part of the new World Test Championship. Instead, they will host England and South Africa for 5 and 3 test matches respectively.
Even if they win the World Test Championship, can we say for certain that they are the best?
Or are we thinking too far ahead? If Captain Kohli cannot get his act together, if India continues to ignore the need to practice against the red ball, and if they keep on choking, a cakewalk down under could turn into yet another anal rash overseas.