From the highs of Lord’s to the lows of Southampton, it has been one shocking slide for India in a span of ten days. The way they surrendered at the Ageas Bowl, it seemed like India were the team under pressure, who went into the Test 1-0 down, when actually things were exactly the opposite. India had everything going for them into the third Test, and England were being slaughtered from all corners – by the British media as well as the former players. India had a great opportunity to rub salt into England’s wounds. Instead, they themselves took two steps backward, and deserved to lose at Ageas Bowl.
Undoubtedly, India were dealt with the big blow at the start of the Test itself, with their in-form pace bowler Ishant Sharma being ruled out. In his absence, the inexperienced medium pacers struggled. Still, it wasn’t reason enough for them to come up with such a shambolic effort. Even if you leave apart the bowling, they were pathetic in each and every department of their game right from day one. Their fielding was absolutely ridiculous, with slips in particular dropping catches at will, as if they were in net practice. India were never going to win once they dropped the number of catches that they did during the Test.
In the absence of Ishant, Bhuvneshwar Kumar needed to take on the additional role of leading the attack. But, he is too raw yet to shoulder such a major burden. He did try his best, but his limitations under the conditions were clearly visible. Unlike the English bowlers, Kumar did not have the pace or the wherewithal to exploit the conditions. With Mohammad Shami also losing his sting, the Indian attack was toothless. Shami’s lack of effectiveness is becoming increasingly dangerous, and Pankaj Singh’s unimpressive debut made matters worse.
India could still have competed in the game had their talented batsmen risen to the challenge. But, the manner in which they batted was a rather stark reminder of their woes back in 2011. Surely, they won’t be whitewashed this time, but their batting was a throwback to the embarrassing times three times back. India were always going to struggle if Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane failed in this game, since they were the only two form batsmen at the start of the third Test. Rahane got fifties in both the innings, but two failures for Vijay meant that India lacked the much-needed solidity.
The visitors were badly affected once again owing to the failures of three of their top batsmen. Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara were supposed to be the backbone of India’s batting in the series. But, they have been completely below par, and absolutely disappointing. All three of them got starts in the match, but not one of them could convert it into big scores. In fact, among them they have managed only one half-century in 18 innings combined. That says something about the lacklustre effort of the trio. It was least surprising then that the Indians were completely outplayed at Southampton.
--By A Cricket Analyst