Sanjay Manjrekar has been following Indian cricket very closely, thanks to his commentary stint.
The former India batsman, who loves speaking his mind, believes that to succeed in England, India needs to ensure it is not over-reliant on captain Virat Kohli. “Batting will need to be consistent,” he says.
In a free-wheeling chat with Sportstar on the sidelines of India’s historic Test against Afghanistan, Manjrekar talks about India’s chances in England.
The Test match against Afghanistan wrapped up in just two days. Now, a bigger challenge awaits the Indian team as it prepares for its England tour. What are the areas it needs to work on before the tour?
This Test match was actually not going to show us the areas we need to improve on or our strengths. This was not the kind of opposition that would help us look at those areas. Among all the Test matches that have been played so far, the last one in South Africa especially, tells us what is needed for the England tour. Performances in the sub-continent have to be disregarded when you are playing in places like Australia, England, New Zealand or South Africa because it is a completely different challenge. We know this from our past overseas experiences.
Now, let’s be realistic. What are the chances of Virat Kohli-led side making it count in England?
Let’s not forget, England lost to Pakistan three times in the last couple of trips. Pakistan won two Tests in the last tour and this time, they have won another one. At home, England is a very beatable side now. It is one of the only top teams that tends to lose at home. So, India has a very good chance. According to me, India’s only concern is its batting. It relies too much on Kohli of late on overseas tours and that issue needs to be addressed. But these observations are not for Asian or sub-continent conditions but for places like England, New Zealand, Australia or South Africa.
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Even against a weak side like Afghanistan, India’s middle-order struggled. So, in different conditions in England, what should the middle-order batsmen keep in mind?
I am not concerned how they performed in this Test match. If you look at the previous overseas campaigns, the Indian batting looked good because Murali Vijay was in top form. Ajinkya Rahane was very consistent. These were the batsmen who delivered for India consistently on all the overseas tours. Rahane and Vijay are not the same players today. So, it is important that they get back to prime form. If they do, Virat will get some support, otherwise, batting will be an issue. (Shikhar) Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara have shown us that when it comes to overseas Test matches, they don’t make as much of an impact with the bat.
Not in good form, do you think Rahane will actually be able to make it to England?
He should. He has to despite his current form. We have to look at players who have delivered in overseas conditions in the past, more understandingly. That’s where (K.L) Rahul has to be part of India’s plans and Rahane too. I can understand if players who have failed overseas are not given the long rope, but Rahane, Vijay, Rahul — who got a hundred in Australia — are the guys you should back. Virat, of course, is in a different league.
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What do you think of India’s bowling?
In the last trip to South Africa, our bowling was quite impressive. There were occasions when Indian batting could have won games easily. That did not happen. So, I think bowling will be our strength. It was our strength in South Africa as well. With the emergence of (Jasprit) Bumrah as the strike bowler, it has become much stronger. Then, you have top class spinners and a great back-up like Kuldeep Yadav. Batting will need to stand up too. It can’t just be about one man, like in the 90s where (Sachin) was the only Indian batsman who would score runs consistently overseas.