England Vs India First Test: Joe Root Engineers Collapse Of India’s House Of Star Cards!


Photo: espncricinfo.com

England captain Joe Root did the right things from the very beginning of the first cricket test against India in Chennai: winning the crucial toss and naturally electing to bat on a track that is known to turn from the third or the fourth day; scoring a double ton that helped his team build a mammoth first innings total of 578, neutralizing the three Indian spinners on their home turf; having his spinners and pacers, particularly James Anderson rally around restricting India to 337 which is largely thanks to a few of India’s Australia-resistance heroes, keeper Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar and Ravichandran Ashwin; being always wary of India’s elusive but documentary batting depth and not risking to bat last on a turning track, and therefore, not enforcing the follow-on; despite having his team out for a paltry 178 in the second innings still allowing his team enjoy a rather amusing target of 420 for India to achieve in just over a day; and having Anderson strike three crucial blows in the morning session of the last day, paving the way for a oft-repeated Indian collapse.  So then, he played the ‘Root cause’ for England’s crushing win by 227 runs over India, leading the World Test Championship Series 1-0.

 

And India, oh dear! Over the decades we’ve been witnessing classic Indian collapses on the last day facing a daunting task of either winning outright or drawing, except for a few monumental occasions including that in Australia in the recently concluded Test Series. In the same Australia Series we had seen the 36-all-out syndrome by Virat Kohli’s India, and then stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane engineering a historic resistance to win the Series 2-1. In this particular cricket new normal first test in Chennai, India, with all its star players back, was expected to bat on for the next two days and thus achieving a likely draw.

 

However, that did not happen. All of the Indian top batting order except for Cheteshwar Pujara failed to launch a fitting reply as the English spinner duo set about beating the masters in their own game. The duo of Bess and Leach accounted for 6 vital wickets in India’s first innings while the three Indian spinners fought hard to capture 5 in England’s first innings. A huge run deficit of 241 proved to be the turning point for the home team, and despite its spinners finally coming into the frame and skittling out the visitors for 178, we were treated again to the time-tested spectacle of the Indian team marching towards an inevitable end with defeat written large at every spot on the field.

 

Although it is only the first of the four test matches, the result yields some scope for introspection. The contrast is extremely marked: even a less than a second-team India rallied around in Australia against the mighty home opponents while the strong reinforced full-strength team faltered on their favorite spinning home turf. Losing the toss cannot be termed as the only causative factor, apart of course, from the Root Cause. It’s only natural to get your star players back in the team that, in this case, included the captain himself. But the star players must perform and cannot take their places for granted. For example, opener Rohit Sharma failed in both of the innings as if continuing from his Australia tour; the captain also failed in the crucial first innings and his campaign for a losing cause in the second innings is hardly any justification. The three Indian spinners failed to apply any pressure on England in the first innings, and this would perhaps bring into picture the exclusion of Kuldeep Yadav or going for an extra fast bowler with the hero of Australia, Mohammad Siraj decorating the dressing room. Ajinkya Rahane too fared miserably in both innings, and this brings to us another angle.

 

Is everything alright between Kohli and Rahane? It’s often seen that Rahane performs poorly in Virat’s team and proves himself otherwise, as if free of any tether. Rahane’s captaincy, as displayed in Australia and elsewhere in limited openings, is strategically interactive, thinking and calculatively aggressive to Kohli’s strategy of aggression based on instinct and impulses. While we cannot deny Kohli as the best Indian captain on record in all three formats of the game we still suggested a split-captaincy regime after the Australia Test Series, making Rahane the captain in the test team. There’s nothing wrong in this, because many countries have three captains for the three formats, not causing any humiliation or insults to anyone in the process.

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