No-balls by spinners to batting woes against moving ball: Factors which led to India’s loss in Chennai Test
Team India losing a Test match on home soil is a rare sight which is why it came as a surprise to many cricket pundits and fans when England emerged victorious by a comfortable margin in Chennai on Tuesday.
India’s inability to match up to England’s mammoth first innings score meant they were playing catch up throughout the match.
It was Joe Root’s double hundred which took the game away from India even before Dom Bess, Jack Leach and the legendary James Anderson took charge of the proceedings with the ball.
Everybody expected India to roll England over at the Chepauk as the hosts headed into the series riding high on confidence after their historic win in Australia just a couple of weeks back.
But things turned out very differently for Virat Kohli’s team over the course of the last 5 days in Chennai.
Here are 4 factors which we think led to India’s downfall against England in the series opener.
NO PLAN B AGAINST ROOT & CO.
Joe Root led by example with his 218 after he won the toss and opted to bat on a pitch which offered little assistance to the bowlers on the first two days. Yes, England got the best conditions to bat but that shouldn’t be an excuse for how Indian spinners bowled on the flat deck on Day 1 and 2.
Root, Ben Stokes, Dom Sibley, Jos Buttler and Ollie Pope came fully prepared to face India’s spinners and it was clearly evident when they played against R Ashwin, Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar, deploying the sweep shot to great effect in the 1st innings. The Indian spinners had no answers to England’s tactics against spin which allowed them to post 578 against the a vastly experienced spin attack.
SPINNERS BOWLING NO-BALLS
Indian bowlers conceded a whopping 45 runs in extras in the first innings that included 20 no-balls. Nearly 50 per cent of the no-ball were bowled by spinners Shahbaz Nadeem (6) and Ravichandran Ashwin (2).
Another 7 no-balls were bowled by the Indians in the second innings with Ashwin (3) and Nadeem (3) as the biggest culprits once again. Spinners bowling no-balls is considered to be a cardinal sin in cricket, the lack of discipline baffled even Indian cricket experts apart from the fans.
INDIA’S WEAKNESS AGAINST THE MOVING BALL
India has a world-class batting lineup led by the experienced Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. But time and again we have witnessed even the experienced ones facing issues against the moving ball.
It happened in New Zealand last year, then in the Pink-ball Test in Adelaide and again in the home conditions in Chennai this week. Excessive movement, be it swing or spin, has troubled the likes of Kohli and their weakness was once again exposed by Anderson, Bess and Leach.
Bess and Leach bamboozled the batters with their spin and guile while Anderson broke India’s back with reverse swing on the final day when he produced an exceptional spell of bowling to ensure England’s victory. Indians need to solve this issue quickly otherwise they might face the same consequences in the next match which will be played at the same venue from February 13.
AJINKYA RAHANE’S INCONSISTENCY
Kohli’s deputy Rahane is the third-most experienced batsman in the Indian lineup but his inconsistency over the last few years has been hurting the team in red-ball cricket.
Rahane has produced some match-winning knocks throughout his career, with the 112 in the Boxing Day Test in December last year being the latest one. But he has struggled since that game, managing scores of 27*, 22, 4, 37, 24, 1 and 0 in his last 7 innings.
Kohli addressed this point after the match but brushed it aside saying it’s not a major concern as of now even though he is averaging less than 15 this year.
“Ajinkya Rahane is, I have said this many times in the past as well, along with Cheteshwar Pujara is our most important Test batsman and he is going to continue to be. We believe in his abilities, we have believed in his abilities for a long time now. He is an impact player,” Kohli told the press on Tuesday.
But Rahane has lacked consistency as a batsman in home Tests, especially under Kohli’s captaincy. Since his hundred against South Africa in October 2016, Rahane has managed just 779 runs at 29.96 in 18 matches with a single hundred and 6 fifty-plus scores under Kohli’s leadership in India.
The 32-year-old averages nearly 45 in away Tests but it drops to 37 at home. Team India needs Rahane to sort out his flaws even though they are yet to accept it is an issue for them before it gets too late for the Mumbai cricketer.