England v/s India in 2018 was meant to be the dawn of India’s rise to cricketing supremacy, and then dismissed after two games as a stark mismatch which called for cries of the death of Test cricket, ultimately it ended up as neither.
However for those who remember it years from now, will recall the emotions it aroused, yet be astounded to discover that England won it 4-1.
India scored more centuries, took more 5 wicket hauls, held on to more of their catches, had the better top 4 and the better top 6. India also had the 2 highest scores of the series and the 4 best knocks were all arguably played by Indians (Kohli in Edgbaston, Pujara in Southampton and Rahul and Pant at the Oval). However we still managed to suffer our worst defeat in England for 7 years.
It was a worse scoreline than the 3-1 defeat here in 2014, and yet a far superior performance. Unlike four years ago, when MS Dhoni’s side seemed as if they were present on the field and on the plane home at the same time, India fought to the very end. And yet our best batting day of the series ended with Mohammed Shami’s middle stump flying in the air and England being comfortable winners.
Good luck making sense of that.
Nevertheless, it was a series that tugged the heartstrings and toyed with your emotions, from Anderson and Kohli’s constant battles to Pant and Rahul’s swashbuckling centuries and all the emotion surrounding Alastair Cook’s last swansong. However the record still reads one thrashing apiece, and 3 nail biters that could have gone either way. And yet to explain why all 3 went to England one has to go beyond the statistics and understand the essence of Test Cricket, which is a game of moments.
And throughout this series, all the key moments when to England.
Those 15 minute periods where the game is right in the balance and any team who seizes the opportunity will come out in front, all went to England. You can say India were in foreign conditions, or say that they lost all the tosses, but the fact is those key match defining moments where one team had to grab the impetus all went to England. Whether it be Sam Curran’s gutsy knocks or Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid’s crucial breakthroughs, England always managed to get back in the game and stay in front from then on.
Furthermore, throughout this series the spotlight has been on Virat Kohli and after 5 test matches, he has strengthened his reputation as a batsman but weakened it as captain. Certainly his Herculean 593 run tally will be one of the best efforts in a losing cause in history and he has further cemented his place as the best batsman of this generation. But as a captain, he has been found wanting. He has been guilty of trying to making things happen at every instance, instead of letting the game come to him and some of his bowling changes have been peculiar. Kohli is always looking for the more aggressive option, when sometimes in Test Cricket that might not be the wisest choice.
His God-like status in Indian cricket has driven him to new heights as a player, but may have had the opposite effects on some of his team-mates. Barring Ishant and Shami all of our experienced pro’s have been disappointing. Maybe its time Kohli puts a hand around Pujara and Rahane, who may have more insecurities than him, and assure them of a place in the 11 irrespective of their performances. Maybe then that puts an end to all the tentativeness and we can see the performances they are capable of unearthing.
For England on the other hand, they may have won the series but their team still has more questions than a Spanish Phrase Book. The top order batting is extremely fragile, Jonny Bairstow has regressed as a batsman and all the slip fielders fingers must be laced with butter.
But for now all of that can wait. For it is a time to enjoy this enthralling, nail biting Test series. Two flawed teams leaving no quarter and giving us one of the most exciting Test Series of recent history. A modern classic, which has been a privilege to witness.