Winning consistently on foreign soil is never easy and one of the prerequisites of succeeding in overseas conditions is giving the players a consistent run and if needed a long rope — depending on the assessment of the team management.
But sadly for India, that has not really happened. As a result, it does not come as a surprise that India’s record overseas hasn’t been great even though the team has managed to impress on and off. Leaving Virat Kohli’s success as captain in Australia on the last tour, there is nothing substantial to show.
And an area of concern has been the batsmen letting the world-class bowling attack down. Apart from Virat Kohli and the pace battery of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, and Ishant Sharma, not many in the current Indian Test setup can say they are sure-shot starters.The collapse in the Adelaide Test which saw the team being bundled out for 36 opened up the floodgates and criticism came in from all quarters. But is the debacle really a surprise?
Earlier this year, India toured New Zealand and the Kiwis dominated both the Test matches. Both the matches ended within three days and the batting left a lot to be desired. The opening combination for starters has not shown any signs of settling down and taking responsibility.
Players like KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Murali Vijay have all been tried outside India, but without much success. It finally led to Rohit Sharma being promoted as Test opener last year and it is not known as to how he will go in overseas conditions where a batsman has to deal with both swing and bounce. Mayank is also just one year into the role as an opener in international cricket, and one must ask, if he fails for one more Test, would the Indian setup look past him?
Prithvi Shaw who did not look like scoring a run in the first Test against Australia, in all likelihood is set to be dropped for the next Test at Melbourne. If Shaw is dropped, one of either Shubman Gill or KL Rahul will replace him. But with Rohit coming back for the third Test, is it fair to give Gill or Rahul just one Test? What if the one who replaces Shaw scores a century and Mayank too finds form?
Talking about stalwarts like Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. Let’s not forget these two players have been dropped in the past during the South Africa and England tour. Rahane was dropped even though he is the vice-captain of the Indian Test line-up. So are they then confident enough of definitely finding their names on the paper that Kohli takes to the toss?
How can one expect the batting order to click when the players do not have a sense of security? Interestingly, limited-overs deputy Rohit has often spoken about backing players when he has addressed the media as stand-in skipper. You cannot bring the best out of a player if he is always insecure about his position. The management needs to take a call as to who the best players are and they should be persisted with.
This brings us to a major area of concern — wicket-keeper. Over the last season it has almost become an unsaid rule that Wriddhiman Saha is the home wicket-keeper and Rishabh Pant is the overseas choice. How can one pick keepers based on venues?
After Saha’s poor show with the bat in Adelaide, it is already speculated that Pant will be playing in the Boxing Day Test. But the question remains whether this stop-gap arrangement can help in the long run?
Backing those that the management feel have it in them to shine on the biggest stage against the toughest opponent should be the prime focus because while winning and losing is part of the game, being outplayed comprehensively isn’t.