• February 5, 2023

Virat Kohli ends whispers over his captaincy in England Test series win

Virat Kohli has won 36 of his 60 Tests as captain of India with only 14 losses

Virat Kohli’s 10th consecutive victory in the Home Tests cleared any doubts about his role as captain of India.

In Australia, his deputy, Ajinkya Rahane, had pulled one test and won two after Kohli returned home to have his child, which sparked speculation.

When India lost the first Test to England, the whispers increased in volume.

But this is Kohli’s team, make no mistake and play with the passion and confidence that the captain himself has tons of.

Someone once confessed, only partially in jest, that they only had to touch Kohli to transfer energy when they felt bad. Kohli is now the third most successful captain in test history after the Australians Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

After that defeat in Chennai, India got better and better while England traveled in the opposite direction and the defeats got bigger. The tops of one team coincided spectacularly with the valleys of the other.

The difference between a 3-1 loss and a 2-2 draw can depend on team selection, poor length assessment when hitting, bloodlust, bad luck and a referee’s disappointing reputation. Or the opposition can obviously be superior.

When England’s final wicket fell to give off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin his 32nd wicket of the series, England could point to all of that.

Pointing at the turning places is convenient, but twice India’s number eight batsmen showed how it could be done.

Ashwin made Sundar 96 in Chennai and Washington not in Ahmedabad for a century.

“We were overqualified,” said English skipper Joe Root with admirable honesty.

Short gray display lineRishabh Pant in actionRishabh Pant averages 64 with the bat on Test cricket after six games in 2021

One of the first things India’s head coach Ravi Shastri said after the series was “We want to get out of the bubble”.

The frustration was evident. Many Indian players have been in a bubble since the September IPL

England had opened “bladder tests” in July. A rotation policy was essential. Perhaps cricket in a bubble requires other statistical measures as well.

When India was 146-6 in the final Test, England may have had visions of a drawn series. Then Rishabh Pant played the series innings, including Shot of the Decade, as he backed up James Anderson, the new ball, and everything.

When Washington enshrined twinning of the century for the seventh and eighth doors, the difference between the teams was publicly visible.

Short gray display lineAxar Patel celebrates a wicketAxar Patel took four five-wicket moves in five innings against England

India’s teens, first spotted by Rahul Dravid at the National Cricket Academy and completing the U19 and A tours, were ready for test cricket.

Opener Shubman Gill is 21; In his debut series, he made 91 in India’s successful car chase in Brisbane. Pant is 23, Washington 21.

Prithvi Shaw, who is only 21 years old, is waiting in the wings after making his debut for a century. Fast bowler Kartik Tyagi (20) and batsman Yashasvi Jaiswal (19) are waiting for him.

India played much of its cricket against Australia and England without frontliners Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, while players with good records like KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya got no insight. Bank strength has never been so strong.

When Mohammed Siraj and Axar Patel, the crank on the left arm, made their debut, they made an immediate impact.

Axar’s 27 wickets under 11 came in just three tests. In the batsmen’s nightmares, the characters of Ashwin and Axar will play a major role.

This meant that despite the relative failure of Seniors Kohli (172 runs in the series, less than Ashwin’s record), Cheteshwar Pujara (133) and Ajinkya Rahane (112), the team played with confidence that someone would deliver.

This was in contrast to England, for which the seniors Root, Ben Stokes and Anderson had to deliver day in and day out.

They had their moments – Root scored a double century in England’s victory and later scored 5-8 with his occasional breaks to highlight the folly of choosing a team with medium pacemakers.

Anderson sent what is perhaps the most breathtaking swing bowling ever in India in the opener, Bring Gill and Rahane in the same direction, the ball cheekily wanders through rackets and upholstery like a child entering a circus through a gap in the tent.

It resulted in England’s sixth straight win on the subcontinent and temporarily affected India’s chances of qualifying for the World Test Championship (WTC) final.

Short gray display lineKapil Dev with the 1983 World Cup trophyIndia’s attitude towards one-day cricket changed after winning the 1983 World Cup in England

Interestingly, Kohli had described the change in the rules for the WTC (triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic) as “confusing” before the Australian tour.

Then he called it a “distraction” which Shastri repeated. Now that India is in the final, “we can hardly wait,” said Kohli.

It’s an interesting sequence and reflects how India reacted to two other world championships – the 50 Over and the T20.

For much of the 1970s India looked down on the shorter format and viewed it as a mere diversion from the “real” cricket, test cricket. Then they won in 1983 and the world changed.

History repeated itself with T20, which India despised and viewed as a joke. After winning that World Cup in 2007, it was never the same again. For one, it led to the IPL and changed the face of cricket.

In June, when they face New Zealand in the WTC finals in England, India will approach with a seriousness lacking in ’83 or ’07. They would have wanted a three game final and if they win it could convince the International Cricket Council to reconsider the format.

Short gray display line

Although neither Kohli nor Shastri used the term, the five-test series in England in August could be considered India’s “last frontier”.

India last won there in 2007 and has done badly on three tours since then.

The “New India” – a term Kohli likes to use – has won the last two series in Australia and will try to change its one-sided record in England.

The teams could be out of the bio-safe bubble by then and add a touch of normalcy to the show.

Jack

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