MICHAEL VAZ, MERCES
WHENEVER India embarks on a cricket tour abroad to play a Test series we invariably speculate about our chances of winning. We landed in England led by Virat Kohli and ably assisted by Ravi Shastri, the much acclaimed coach. Above all since sometime we have been on the ascent holding the top position in ICC Test ranking and England before the start of the current series was far behind at fifth position. The Indian cricket team was in full flow with fairly experienced unit without injury concerns and even the seamers had come of age to exploit the fast, bouncy and hard pitches of England. The English team on paper looked fairly pedestrian except for a couple of established batsmen and even the pace attack though proven was found ageing. But after losing the fourth Test miserably we have already conceded the series to England making the final Test at Oval London ineffective. Summarily we have reaffirmed the old malaise that we are lions only in our den, reaping dividends on our slow, dull and turning pitches essentially tailor-made to suit the spinners. Significantly, in the just concluded Southampton Test, after reducing England to 86 for 6, packing the top six batsmen to the dressing room, and then allowing them to reach 246, reflected the lack of killer instinct. Even the highly ranked Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin could not extract advantage from the rough patches on the turf, grabbing only three wickets, though Moeen Ali, his much lower ranked English counterpart caused massive damage to our batsmen with a nine wickets haul and winning the man of the match award. A major difference between the two sides that tilted the balance in favour of England was the stability of their lower middle order batting wherein ours was found lacking consistently. It is worth noting that this is India’s 18th tour of England, after the first team was led by the late C K Nayudu way back in 1932. We have dismally won only 3 Test series on English soil in 1971, 1986 and 2007 under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar, Kapil Dev and Rahul Dravid respectively. During the last 86 years we have won only seven Test matches in England. That apart, we are yet to win a Test series in Australia and South Africa. Such are our credentials in Test cricket on foreign soil which need to be given special thought since we are the top ranked Test playing nation.