India won the fourth Test in three days, and nobody would have any complaint regarding the wicket at the Narendra Modi stadium, and India, by virtue of the 3-1 series victory, qualified for the final of the first-ever World Championship of cricket to be played at the Lord’s in June.
Irrepressible is how the Indian coach Ravi Shastri described this team, and they really have traversed a vast distance since the all-time low of 36 all out at Adelaide in the pink ball Test till the comprehensive victory at Ahmedabad. India has put to rest the scathing remarks of the former English greats about the surfaces provided at rest.
It boggles the mind if one casts a look back at where it all began. Because of Covid restrictions, India was forced to carry an extended squad to Australia. There the team had the misfortune of injuries first to Jadeja, K.L.Rahul, and then to Mohd. Shami and Bumrah had to play those who were taken as net bowlers in the matches, and they not only played their part but grabbed their opportunities with both hands. The fairy tale stories of Washington Sundar, Natarajan, and Mohd. Siraj, just would not have happened. One cannot imagine how their lives have changed, which was possible only because they got the opportunity. Would Sundar, who had played only 3 first-class games before he went to Australia and in fact had not played in a single first-class match since 2017, have ever dreamt that he would not only be able to shed the label of being a white ball cricketer but would actually end up being a dependable batsman in Tests! Would Natarajan have ever got an ODI cap as early as this, and would Siraj and Shardul have been able to perform heroics in Tests at various times and be match winners for India?
India lost the toss in 3 out of the four Tests against England. The toss was crucial, particularly in the first Test, where had India batted first, there was every chance that England would have crumbled on a wicket which deteriorated rapidly after day two. That England won the Test perhaps made them feel that they would be able to compete, and their victory in 3 Tests in the sub-continent back to back gave them a false sense of security. They made crucial selection mistakes in the Tests that followed. Resting Anderson, who had got 6 wickets in the first Test, made no sense, nor did rotating Butler and Curran, especially as Archer was already out due to injury.
They brought in Moeen Ali for Bess in the second Test and then allowed Moeen to return to England after the second Test. They then played four fast bowlers on a turning track at Ahmedabad, and again they risked Bess instead of another seamer to support Anderson and Stokes in the fourth Test. They misread the wickets and made the wrong choices. Thus India won the second Test in 4 days, the third in 2 days, and the fourth in three days.
Rohit Sharma’s inning of 161 on a difficult wicket in the second Test was the pivotal inning of the series. Besides that great inning, Sharma scored an excellent 60 on a difficult wicket in the third Test and again a watchful 48 in the Fourth Test. For England but for Root’s double century in the first Test and fifties by Stokes and Sibley in the first, Crawley in the third and Stokes and Lawrence in the fourth, the batting was really clueless and at times frantic.
Thus India won the series pretty comprehensively with a dream debut series for Axar Patel and a career-defining one for Washington Sundar. Ashwin reclaimed his position as India’s number one spinner, and Rishabh Pant was resurrected as India’s number one keeper/ batsman. It is indeed a great headache that the selectors and Kohli will face when Jadeja, Shami, Rahul, Bhuvneshwar, and Hardik are all fit and available. Well done, Team India! They really were irrepressible.
Written by Raju Mehta, Ranji player
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