An all-round show from Sam Curran, followed by some late resurgence from Ben Stokes snatched away a well-deserved Indian victory at Edgbaston. Well, a target of 194 wasn’t a big one, certainly not for the table-toppers.
A major reason behind the loss was the Indian batting line-up’s over-dependence on Kohli. It goes without saying that for almost half a decade now, the Indian batting lineup has been reliant on Virat Kohli. India’s miraculous home season in 2016-2017 coincided with Kohli’s dream run with the willow in hand. He has scored six double centuries in just a year and a half.
However, five out of Kohli’s six double tons have been scored on the slow turning tracks of the Indian Subcontinent. A solitary double century also came against a largely-depleted West Indian pace attack on the flatbeds of Antigua in 2016.
Kohli, undoubtedly, is a world-class player, with 57 international centuries already under his belt, but the team’s over-reliance on the star right-hander has been a grave concern in the recent past. The recently-concluded Birmingham test also sheds light on the batting line-up’s over-dependence on Kohli, wherein 149 runs out of a total tally of 274 runs in the first innings were scored by the Indian skipper himself. That’s more than 54% of the total runs scored during the first innings.
The problems don’t end here. There are quite a few chinks in the armour that need to be addressed before the test at Lord’s begins on August 9.
- Who Bats Where?
This, in all fairness, is the biggest question that needs to be answered before the 2nd test. There certainly isn’t a dearth of options, but with several batsmen struggling to score on the seaming tracks of England, the playing XI might undergo a significant transformation before the second test. Dhawan might be seen vacating the opening slot for Lokesh Rahul. Pujara, on the other hand, is most likely to replace Ajinkya Rahane, who is witnessing a significant dip in form. If that happens, then Cheteshwar Pujara would come in at three, followed by Virat Kohli in at four. We might also see Karun Nair coming in at five, followed by Dinesh Karthik the glovesman and Hardik Pandya, the seaming all-rounder. Ashwin can bat at eight to add depth to the batting order. India’s batting order is quite similar to a jigsaw puzzle wherein, you don’t know which piece will go where.
- Would Rahane Make Way for Pujara?
Virat Kohli’s call to drop Cheteshwar Pujara from the starting XI was met coldly by most cricket Pandits. Harsha Bhogle, in one of his tweets featured on Cricbuzz, he threw light on Pujara’s poor run in county cricket this year but reiterated that, given Pujara’s stature in long-form cricket, he’d be surprised if Pujara doesn’t get to play in the five-match series. With a solid technique and an array of classical strokes under his kitty, Pujara will be India’s best bet to bat at three. The fact that he has played a fair amount of county cricket over the years for Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and Yorkshire also adds weight to Pujara’s credentials.
- Handling Lokesh Rahul
An elegant batting technique, a hunger to succeed at the highest level, and classical strokeplay, KL Rahul has every single attribute one needs to succeed in all three formats of the game. At 25, the Karnataka batsman has showcased his class and caliber, but only in patches. The fact that Shikhar Dhawan’s exploits in all forms of the game have made him pretty much an automatic choice has perhaps gone against Rahul. Batting at three in the 1st test at Edgbaston, he was dismissed cheaply in both the innings. The 25-year-old’s dismissals in both the innings had less to do with a slump in form, and more to do with his insecure place in the batting order. For the Indians to come good at Lord’s, they need to send Rahul up the order. Getting him to open the batting by dropping Dhawan is perhaps the best thing the Indian think-tank can do. Sending him to open the batting would allow Rahul to take his own sweet time to get his eye in.
- Who Would Sit Out?
An easy call this. Given Rahane’s poor form, he’d possibly sit out of the playing XI to make way for Pujara. Dhawan, on the other hand, might also be dropped with Lokesh Rahul taking his place as an opener. With Dhawan warming the bench, Karun Nair might find a place in the playing XI.
As far as the bowling lineup is concerned, Umesh Yadav is most likely to be dropped to make way for Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. The likes of Ishant, Shami, and Ashwin are expected to retain their places in the playing XI.
- Probable XI
Virat Kohli (c)