July 6, 2022: So, India lost a Test match and the knives are out. Nothing unusual about that, it being a typical Indian trait. The criticism is harsh and imbalanced bordering on the ludicrous. Everyone and everything is at fault from the batting to the bowling, from the fielding to the captaincy, from the coach to the team selection. When will Indian cricket followers take defeat in their stride, accept that however well the team played – and there were more than just crumbs of comfort – England played the better cricket and emerged deserving winners.
It is not every time that a team recovers from a 132-run deficit to turn the tables so emphatically as to win by seven wickets in the process reaching their highest ever total to win in the fourth innings. On that count alone England deserves full credit. Didn’t Ben Stokes candidly say after winning the toss that they would bowl first because they have been chasing well and would love to do so again. That was a confident captain talking with three successive run chases behind him against New Zealand. And indeed, after the Edgbaston Test Stokes went as far as to say, “There was a bit of me that almost wanted India to get 450 to see what we would do.” Now that is not being pompous. This is a confident England squad under a new coach and captain playing some very attractive and positive cricket and he has every right to say that especially after reaching a formidable target of 378 with only three wickets down.
A lot was made of the fact that England would not find it that easy against India as they did against New Zealand against whom they won all three Tests. India was reckoned to be the stronger side but on what basis one wonders. Actually there is not much to choose between the five top teams – Australia, India, England, New Zealand and South Africa and playing at home is always an advantage. So how did one reach the conclusion that India was stronger than New Zealand and would stretch England and perhaps even win? Much was made particularly of the bowling with the Indian pace attack rated higher than New Zealand’s. That is just not true for if Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj are good so are Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner. Even a cursory glance at the career stats would confirm this.
Yes, there were a couple of occasions when India faltered – when they allowed England to recover in the first innings after a dismal start and then not being able to consolidate on the handy lead on the fourth day. But the manner in which England coasted to victory too much need not to be made of the batting failure on the penultimate day or the bowling failure in England’s second innings. It would be so much better to say “well done England, well played and congratulations. The better team won.”
I am not advocating a fatalistic attitude. Sure there is scope for India to perform better and if changes are to be made so be it. There are a few players who should be dropped and will in any way be axed as Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul should be back for the next Test which in any case is only in November. But in the meantime give credit where it is due and let us not be too harsh on the Indian team which too played some good cricket. There was that unforgettable hundred by Rishabh Pant while Ravindra Jadeja enhanced his reputation with the bat. Bumrah maintained his with the ball and Shami and Siraj too had their moments. But the double failures of nearly half the players was too much of a leeway to make up and very simply put that in the ultimate analysis cost India the game.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal.)