Positive mindset need of the hour for India after Lord's horror show

India was comprehensively beaten in the second Test at Lord's, where it batted only 82.2 overs in the two innings combined.

The Virat Kohli-led India will look to hit back after a forgettable outing at Lord's.   -  Getty Images

The capitulation in the Lord’s Test has set the cricketing fraternity around the world to question the credentials of the current Indian team. There was much hope and the mood was buoyant when the team arrived in England in June. There can be no denying that England completely outplayed India and has virtually run away with the series.

England not only batted, bowled and fielded better than India, its reviews were much more potent and meaningful; it even got the conditions that suited its style of cricket. England will argue justifiably that in order to succeed, you have to make your own luck.

If one looks at the Lord’s Test clinically, there is universal agreement that England got the better of the conditions. James Anderson and Chris Woakes were unplayable in the first innings with their ability to move the ball prodigiously. Their line of attack was consistent and their discipline outstanding. There is no better bowler in the world than Anderson when the ball is swinging.

Apart from M. Vijay, the Indian batsmen were victims of some wonderful bowling. Vijay is struggling and badly out of touch. He needs to regain his form by dropping down a grade and getting his confidence back by scoring runs. Vijay was looking to play across the line and he was in no position to play the shot he intended to. He should have been looking to play the ball straight.

The swing of James Anderson got the better of M. Vijay, who is technically sound normally.   -  AFP

 

It is easy to be critical when a side is down and outplayed. However, it is also a good time for introspection and assessing and addressing the errors and shortcomings. It was a bewildering decision to play two spinners in a game affected by inclement weather. An extra seamer would and should have been the obvious choice.

Equally bewildering was Kohli's confirmation that had he won the toss he would have fielded. Surely, the value of two spinners is best when the team is bowling last to capitalise on the wear and tear of the pitch. This highlights that the mindset and gameplan of this team need fine-tuning. More disturbingly, it demonstrates the unwillingness to adapt the team to the exigencies of changing match conditions.

Purported to be India’s X-factor, Kuldeep Yadav bowled with his bowling arm quite low. He would have found it not only hard to bowl an effective googly with this lower arm, but the element of deception would also have been considerably reduced with the ball release as it would be quite evident to see and pick it.

Having said that, he only bowled nine overs in three spells, which precluded him from being able to make a meaningful impact in any case.

But perhaps the most bizarre decision was Kohli’s choice to bring Ashwin on after 35 overs - he bowled Yadav ahead of his main spinner! The field placements were hard to understand and justify. India bowled at least one or two balls in an over that England batsmen could score off easily. Therefore, there was no pressure being created on the batsmen. Singles were easy to milk and England ended up scoring at around four runs an over throughout its innings.

Even Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami bowled many balls on the legs of Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings in the early stages. All in all, it was indisciplined bowling. This was very significant at a time when the batsmen were keen on survival.

There are elements of Kohli’s captaincy that must be addressed. A good captain inspires the players around him when the going is tough. There is no doubt Kohli is a world-class batsman and has the charisma to lift those around him, but he also needs to deal with each player and handle different situations with a degree of maturity and humility.

At times he is quite impetuous and should check his aggression for a greater cause. When his side is fielding, he seems to be following the ball in his field settings and constantly reacting to situations instead of seeing and steering the game to suit the strength of his team.

He appears too animated to inspire the calm and confidence a bowling attack needs. Moreover, one often wonders what his gameplan is when the imperative is to take wickets. The slips cordon in this Test was too narrow to be effective. The fielders placed away from the bat were neither able to save singles nor boundaries. This modern field-placing is hard to fathom, I have to say.

Read: Captain Kohli faces his biggest challenge yet

The batting unit apart from Kohli has been performing well below par. I believe Rahul got two excellent deliveries and deserves a longer rope. He is a quality player and needs to be nurtured. Vijay and Pujara seem to be content at just occupying the crease without any serious intent to keep the scoreboard moving.

Test cricket is a game of patience and opportunism - not just attrition. At this level in general, and in England in particular, any international attack will be all over you if you don’t try to dominate. Both Vijay and Pujara have played and performed at this level to know and understand the requirements. As such it is sad to see them struggling now in this manner.

Rahane is a shadow of himself these days. He looks insecure and his body language at the crease is tentative. He too is a much better player than what is on display. Dinesh Karthik has had a horror run and perhaps needs to make way for the young and exciting Rishabh Pant. If the selectors do pick Pant, then they ought to give him a good run at this level to build his confidence.

The Indian think-tank has the task of lifting the morale of the team ahead of the third Test.   -  Getty Images

 

This brings me to my last point: the role of the coach and support staff. There are so many glaring issues that would be obvious to any cricket follower. With all the benefits of analyzing and dissecting play, modern coaches and support staff are sadly coming out in very poor light.

Their silence is deafening and they are conspicuous by their absence when it comes to any critical reflection on their players’ performance. This coaching and support team has had a long enough tenure to be assessed as having performed way below par.

It has to be said that Virat Kohli has put his hand up every time and spoken candidly when facing the press. He has taken it on the chin without excuses and finger-pointing. This is great to see from the Indian captain and is in stark contrast to the mute management.

India needs to go into Trent Bridge with a much more positive mindset, a strong will to succeed and some necessary changes. My side would be K. L. Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, R. Ashwin, Hardik Pandya/Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. The outcome of this series is now in their hands and it is all but gone.