India made a strong come back in the Border-Gavaskar Test series with a thumping victory in Bangalore. This win gave a massive boost to the side and also produced many positives. But, some issues still persist which could be decisive in crunch situations.
Australia is a formidable opponent and can bounce back if offered little chance. Hence Kohli and Co. cannot take things lightly and should work hard to overcome their shortcomings before the next test.
Here, we discuss some of the pressing issues which are troubling team India. Before the start of the third Test, India must rectify these five critical problems so that they continue to have the upper hand against the visitors.
#1 Opening woes
KL Rahul has been outstanding so far in this series and his runs at the top will still be crucial for India in the upcoming matches. However Indian management will be more concerned about his batting partner.
Murali Vijay missed the Bangalore Test due to an injury to his left shoulder, but he was retained in the squad with the hope that he recovers before the third Test.
If fit, Vijay is India’s first choice opener but his erratic form is still a concern. In his last 15 innings, Vijay has notched up three centuries but apart from that has only one score of 30 plus. Consistency is something fans are expecting from this stylish right-handed opening batsman.
India’s option if Vijay stays unfit is Abhinav Mukund, who made a comeback in the national side after five years courtesy of strong performance in domestic cricket. However, he looked scratchy in both innings in the Bangalore Test and hence questions remain over his selection.
Indian openers have failed to see off the new ball in this series which has been a cause of worry. With Mitchell Marsh ruled out of the rest of the series, the pressure is already on the Australian pace department. If Indian openers deny an early wicket, Australia could lose the plot in no time.
Hence, this will increase the burden on their spinners and will also provide liberty to Indian middle order to play freely.
#2 Exploiting Jadeja’s abilities
Kohli has been impressive with his captaincy and his ‘win first’ approach has won him many fans. But he still needs to work on some aspects of making optimum use of bowling resources.
In the first innings in Bangalore, Jadeja was India’s best bowler by a fair margin. However, he was also the most underused bowler. Jadeja bowled only 18.6 percent of India’s total overs whereas Ashwin’s percentage was 39.8, which is more than double of Jadeja’s.
Despite getting a wicket in his fourth over, Jadeja was given only five overs in the first 62 overs of Australia’s innings. Jadeja’s success lies in bowling long spells when he hits the right area over after over. He was denied to do that in the first innings as he was used for short spells. Even then, he grabbed six wickets and proved his worth.
In the next Test, Kohli has to make sure that he makes complete use of this match winner and offers him an extended run.
#3 Fielding worries, especially close-in catches
Team India’s pathetic fielding performance in the Pune Test was repeated in Bangalore and now Kohli and his men have to seriously introspect about their fielding skills. India’s close-in fielders still haven’t learned the art of grabbing catches.
In the second innings in Bangalore, Smith was dropped by Kohli at second slip on Yadav’s bowling. Fortunately for India, it didn’t cost much but not every time a batsman like Smith forgives such blunder.
Effective slip catching is the result of the perfect grasp of various factors such as coordination among fielders and the distance of slip fielders from the stumps. Knowledge of these things comes from experience and Anil Kumble could certainly offer some wisdom to this Indian side.
#4 Runs from lower order batsmen
Since 2016, India’s lower order batsmen (from No.07 to 11) have scored runs at an average of 27.20 which is one of the vital reasons for India’s dominance. On numerous occasions, lower order batsmen contributed significantly which enabled India to score respectful totals.
However, in both Tests in this series, Indian lower order has failed to add any value to the team total. Wridhiman Saha, Jadeja, and Ashwin have already proved their batting prowess and hence, the onus of scoring runs at the end lies on their shoulders.
These batsmen must get support from someone at the top as it is easier for tail-enders to hang around with a set batsman rather than weaving a partnership with other lower order batsmen. Turning tracks and difficult pitches means runs will be hard to come by and thus some runs from the lower order could be a match-changing factor.
#5 Creating partnerships
Sudden collapses have been a common feature of India’s batting in this Test series. It has hurt India immensely and has also offered Australia the vital momentum. Apart from the match winning 118 runs partnership between Rahane and Pujara, Indian batsmen have managed only two fifty-plus partnerships in four innings.
On the other hand, Australian batsmen in the same number of innings have scored seven fifty-plus partnerships.
On difficult pitches and bowler friendly conditions, big triple figure partnerships are rare. Hence, Indian batsmen can at least get a few decent 50 plus partnerships in an innings so that the bowling team is kept under check.
The initiative has to come from the top order batsmen who have better temperament and possess the skills to rotate strike frequently.
So far in this series, Australia has proved that they cannot be taken lightly and hence India will want to begin the third Test with complete preparation. The above mentioned five issues must be sorted out quickly for India to continue their dominance in the remaining two Tests.