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If not Virat Kohli, there’s hardly anything else

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli

If you are an Indian fan, you must be going through agony right now. Being passionate about the game perhaps gives you the right to feel dejected having seen the Indian team going down badly in England. It’s hard to see your heroes struggle. But have you given even a tiny thought how Virat Kohli would be feeling right now?

The Indian skipper is far more passionate than any of us. In fact, when it comes to the passion for the game, he stands far ahead of any other player on a cricket field. Virat Kohli loves the game, possesses tremendous skills to dominate any opposition and indeed dominates more often than not.

But unfortunate as it may sound, he deserves better lads around him. He wears his heart on his chest and puts in his best each time but sadly, ends up on the losing side on overseas Tests, not because of him but due to the inability of other batsmen in the line-up. A scoreline of 1-3 is due to the continuous failure of the batsmen while the bowlers have toiled hard.

Indian cricket in reverse gear

India, a team known for having massive batting talent over the years, is now struggling to find a few good batsmen in the longest format of the game. A golden time in Indian cricket saw the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman in the batting line-up who were a nightmare for every opposition in any condition.

After the retirement of these stalwarts, there was enough promise to keep the legacy going. But rather than moving forward, the game in the country is drifting backward. Before the others joined in, Sachin Tendulkar carried the hopes of the nation for so long single-handedly in the 90s. The same phase seems to have come back in the current era.

The whole world goes gaga about Virat Kohli and terms him the best batsman of the current generation. Yes, he truly is the best by a country mile. But apart from him in the Indian team, there is hardly anyone who stands out. All the opposition requires is to get him out and the others fall like nine pins.

This was the case in South Africa and it carried on in England too. He scored 286 runs in 3 matches in the Rainbow nation which was the most by any player in the series and was the only batsman to score a hundred. The next best Indian batsman was Hardik Pandya who mustered 119 runs.

In the 4 Tests in England so far, he is again leading the batting charts with 544 runs. No other batsman has scored even half of his runs. Just like South Africa, India finds itself on the wrong end of the finish line. Each time the Indian batsmen walk out to bat, a feeling of Deja Vu pops up. Take Kohli out, the others just follow him back to the dressing room and there’s very little fight on display.

Openers rarely begin

Ever since the pair of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag was separated, team India has struggled massively to find a decent opening combination. Murali Vijay gave hopes on the previous string of away tours but he had a forgettable outing in South Africa. It went from bad to worse in England as he was dropped from the side and sent back home midway through the series.

Shikhar Dhawan roars like a lion on Indian surfaces but looks extremely out of place when he steps his foot on foreign land. We keep rating KL Rahul highly for his class and he keeps us on the edge of our seats with his mesmerizing skills in white ball cricket. Rahul doesn’t remain the same Rahul on overseas pitches and falls before even getting noticed.

Pujara-Rahane good but not good enough

We were quick to pass the judgment on Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. When these 2 made their way in the Indian team, Pujara was termed as the successor of Dravid and Rahane was compared with the reliable Laxman. In the early years on Indian surfaces, the duo looked like living up to the expectations.

But come the overseas tours, it became evident that the comparisons weren’t apt. In patches, they do look gritty and gutsy and deliver too. But their contributions don’t come when India needs them the most. Pujara scored a hundred in the first innings at the Ageas Bowl to keep the team in the game but faltered big time in the second innings when he needed to drop the anchor.

Rahane has also scored a couple of half-centuries in the series but the team demands a lot more from a player of his class. Pujara bats before Virat Kohli and Rahane follows the skipper but very rarely does Kohli find the cushion before and after him. If Pujara-Rahane bat to their potential more often, the scenario would be pretty different.

The lower order lacks fight

After MS Dhoni’s retirement from Test cricket, India’s focus has been to pick a proper wicketkeeper. His premier role is to be safe behind the wickets. Wriddhiman Saha does that pretty well but doesn’t come good with the bat a lot. When he got injured, the team has gone with Parthiv Patel, Dinesh Karthik and recently, Rishabh Pant.

Karthik couldn’t translate his white-ball form to Test cricket and was dropped from the line-up. It’s too early to pass a judgment on Pant though. He has just begun his career and already witnessed how difficult it is at the highest level.

Hardik Pandya blows hot and cold. Sometimes, he shows promise with the bat and with the ball at other times. But consistency is a big problem and India’s incessant trust in him now needs to pay the dividend. Ravichandran Ashwin has 4 centuries in Test cricket but the opposition each time presented far lesser competition.

Indian cricket was hugely dominated by the batsmen in the last decade and not the bowlers. It’s the other way round now. The pacers have done a marvelous job on both recent overseas tours but there was no backing from the batsmen apart from Virat Kohli.

Take Virat Kohli out of the side in an overseas Test and the others don’t pose a threat to the opposition. The bottom line is that the apart from Virat Kohli, there’s hardly anything else. There’s another big tour of Australia coming up this year. This was the best chance India had in England and they let that go. If the other batsmen don’t stand up down under, the results won’t be too different.

 

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