India by winning the 4th Test match versus England at Mumbai have won the Anthony D Mello series 3 Nil with one match to spare. Interestingly the series in England is known as Pataudi trophy. Sharmila Tagore’s request to name the series here as Pataudi trophy was not accepted by BCCI which instead started the Pataudi Annual lecture, a much awaited annual event with Gavaskar,Dravid,Kumble and Laxman as earlier speakers and Farokh Engineer as the speaker in the event scheduled for 13th Jan 2017
A super, clinical performance by team India so far. Lets look at various aspects of the game and how the two teams fared.
Toss. Too often the toss is given huge credit for wins in India. Yes, toss is crucial, but more important is utilising it. India’s wins are even more highly creditable as they lost 3 tosses out of 4. In the 1st test England amassed 537 but India batted well to get a commendable draw. Two of the 3 Test wins were after losing the toss. Especially at Mumbai it was commendable to win after England put up 400 which is a huge 1st innings score at Wankhede.
Batting. Overall, India batted better as a team. The stark difference of course was Virat who led from the front. At Mumbai he conjured up a genius 235 on a difficult track to get his side a 231 run lead. At Vizag he scored a century from 22/2 and in the second innings on a dreadful track too he got 81. Virat already has 640runs in the series so far. Pujara is now settled at 3. While Vijay and Rahul too show that they can be a settled opening pair. For India , Rahane had a couple of low scores in this series. However he is too valuable for the Indian team and has shone in adverse circumstances abroad. It is only a matter of time before he shines in India as well. I expect him to score big versus Australia.
Patience to bat long has been a highlight of Indian batting in this series. Both at Rajkot and at Mumbai they played for a long time which always helps in Test cricket. At Rajkot batting for 160 overs helped them get a creditable draw. At Mumbai they outdid that and went on to post 631.
India has performed creditably as regards the lower half of the order. Ashwin, Jadeja and Saha have chipped in with important knocks. Parthiv stepped up as an opener and did well. Jayant scored a century at Number 9 at Mumbai and earlier in the series too had critically important knocks as well. In contrast, England batted reasonably of as regards the top end of the order but not in the lower end. Even at the top, they did not function well as a team except in the 1st test and that helped India win 3 out of 4 Tests.
The bonus batting gain for India has been that their 3 spinners, Ashwin, Jadeja and Yadav batted very well. Ashwin shows assurance and provides comfort. Jadeja is consistently getting 30’s and 40’s. Jayant of course is batting like a proper top order batsman. Apparently he bats at 4 or 5 for Haryana in Ranji trophy and it shows in the composure and confidence he brings to his batting.
One thing India needs to think about for the future is a 3rd opener. Parthiv did the job superbly here, but may not be able to do so overseas. However there is time. Let us see what the 5 wise men think about this issue.
For England, the silver lining is that for 3 years they struggled to find an opening partner and now suddenly both Haseeb Hameed and Keaton jenning have impressed.In fact Duckett too is promising and should be retained in future scheme of things.
However they lack an effective number 4. Probably Root can now go back to 4, with Cook, Hameed and Jennings at the top 3.
Captaincy. Here too Kohli is ahead. Cook had a chance in the 1st Test but gave India a too difficult task of scoring 310 runs in 53 overs. Probably a target of 270 or so in 65 overs should have been given. Who knows, an attacking Kohli could have taken up the challenge and England could have gone 1 Nil up. That potentially would have changed the course of the series. Cook may have missed the bus there. Virat deserves credit for constant attack and keenly looking for a win.
Bowling. Ashwin has once again shown himself as India’s leading bowler. He now has 247 wickets in 43 Tests, and is on the way to break Dennis Lillee’s record of fastest to 250 in 48 Tests. Indian greats Kapil Dev and Bedi had 25 plus wickets in a series 4 and 3 times each , and now Ashwin has achieved it 4 times. With Jadeja as 2nd spinner and Jayant as the 3rd the spin attack seems secure. The pace attack too seems settled with Shami, Yadav, Bhuvneswar Kumar and Ishant Sharma available.
What about abroad. Jadeja has been criticised as being ineffective. So maybe he will make way for a 3rd quick abroad, especially as Jayant with his solid batting will be helpful in all conditions. Or possibly India would like to go in for an extra batsman abroad. Time will tell. I expect this Indian team to do well abroad too.
English bowling was severely hampered by lack of an authentic spinner. Moeen Ali was supposed to be their number 1 spinner, but his lack of effectiveness hurt England badly. They also seemed to have gone in for a wrong selection in Mumbai by going in with 4 quicks. A bowler of calibre of Chris Woakes bowling his 9th over when the team had bowled 170 shows how badly this selection had gone wrong. Trott, Cook and Root all admitted that this was a mistake. Jimmy Andersen getting 4 wickets in 3 Tests shows how ineffective the English bowlers were.
Overall, the better team won against a competitive team – in fair conditions.
India has now won 5 consecutive series in a row. Congratulations.