India’s 1-4 loss to England in the Test series can be seen to have evoked very predictable reactions with the debating sides, the cynics and the optimists, voicing opinions that sound pre-recorded. The O Henry turn that the fifth match took when England turned things around in the second innings after yet another sensational middle-order collapse set the stage for the barbs to be traded as they subsequently appeared, showing why everyone could do with an informative tip in whatever form to pound his drum as a pundit.
Not that all of what is being said is founded on fantasy. Yes, it is yet another serialised contest abroad that is lost but, equally truly, there is no denying that India have done much better this time around in England than on the previous tour, which was in 2014. That was apocalypse now.
Our pacemen revelled in helpful conditions with greater frequency on the latest tour than their batting brethren seemed capable of when the track suited them. Virat Kohli, in contrast to the orchestrated message, was hardly the lone warrior with the willow, though. Look up the reports and you will happen upon details that suggest class and combative instincts aplenty, though neither seemed to manifest itself at some crucial junctures, which might go at least some way towards explaining the victory margin that flattered England.
The hosts had gone into the series amid condescending talk in the media about their pace bowlers requiring to be rotated for their potency to be retained for the future but, as the battle progressed and India’s new-ball bowling turned out to be something that could have their rivals wobbling at the knee, immediate worries took precedence over everything else.
Records or no records, neither James Anderson nor Stuart Broad menaced India quite to the same extent as four years ago, when reputations built on the sub-continent’s docile pitches were in tatters by the time the series ended. Usually, swing bowlers’ control gets better even as they lose their pace but there were flashes during the contests when it seemed that the English duo had gained little while their speed fell.
Kohli, acknowledged as a master despite an amazing sequence of dropped catches, was generous in his praise of Man-of-the-Series Sam Curran but it was difficult, even at the Surrey all-rounder’s brighter moments, to imagine him as Ian Botham all over again. India too seemed a little disappointed that Hardik Pandya had not lived up to the hopes built around him.
Ahead of a trip to Australia, where we have never won a series so far, batting should be India’s chief concern, though their swing bowlers, including Bhuvneswar Kumar, could find the going a little tougher Down Under, where pace and bounce count more. Of no less importance is the captain’s confidence in all his players, including Ravichandran Ashwin and Karun Nair.