India give Bazball their first moral loss

Notes on Day 4 of the 3rd Test at Rajkot

India give Bazball their first moral loss
Yashasvi Jaiswal has only played 7 Tests, by the way

Virat Kohli was not here, Mohammad Shami either, and R Ashwin was part time, and yet India poured a full warm pint of bitter onto the Bazballers.

This felt so different than all the other times India has won at home. Most of them have been near-pointless endeavours. Even when a good side like New Zealand turned up, what kind of chance did they have to beat India with Will Somerville as their second spinner. Teams have been turning up to be destroyed by India.

There were two reasons. One was that the pitches often favoured the local side’s incredible spin trio, that unless you happened to clone Bishen Bedi and Anil Kumble at your academy, chances are you’d be destroyed. But much more importantly than that, India went into every game with five first choice bowlers, and some legends with the bat. They had what they needed to defeat any team in most places, and at home, you’d better offer hoping ice cream would freeze on it’s own than some teams even taking a match. 

This was not like this at all. All three Tests have been played on really even surfaces for pace, spin and seam. India have been cobbling together a side from whatever players they could find a shirt for. And the ran into Bazball, a concept that makes the most feeble and ill-equipped players run through Hyderabad like monstrous demons. 

India have come back from 0-1 against the best vibes in cricket history, without their best players or helpful pitches. And they didn’t just beat England, they made them question their positivity. 

First we need to remember what a full-strength Indian team would look like.

Rohit, Jaiswal, Gill, Virat, Iyer/KL, Pant, Jadeja, Axar, Ashwin, Shami, Bumrah

The top three would be probably about the same as they have now. But then things go very whiffy. India were planning on having Virat Kohli for this series, and then, him at least playing towards the end. Neither of those things have occurred. 

They dropped Shreyas Iyer, but let’s say that KL Rahul was picked instead. Well, he got injured anyway and has missed some time opening up their middle order.

This shouldn’t have mattered, but with no Rahane or Pujara, it also meant the entire thing was opened in a way for a team to come in take control. 

Rishabh Pant is their first choice keeper, and on the trajectory he is currently on, is looking like he could end up one of the greatest batters in gloveman history. They even had to drop their replacement, who was supposed to be a safe pair of hands. 

Ravi Jadeja played one Test on two legs, missed the next, and then played the last match with one leg. He still got player of the match, because, Sir Ravi J, but they haven’t got the most out of him. Axar Patel wasn’t as good as they would have hoped, so the man with the golden average was forced to wear a substitute bib. R Ashwin has not bowled well, and also had to look after his mum for a bit. 

And for the pace bowling, India didn’t have their automatic number two, Mohammad Shami, through injury. This meant in the second match they had to draft in another seamer not up to it. Plus, Ashwin’s injury really exposed a potential issue as England kept going after Siraj. 

Australia failed to win two series at home during their 10 run of professionally aggression from 95-05. One was a small series that New Zealand played well and drew every match. And the other was an India tour where Australia didn’t have Warne or McGrath. When you lose this many players, or have this kind of run, you are not supposed to win. 

Now, this is nothing like what India did with net bowlers and guys they found in their couch cushions for 20/21. But that doesn’t make this nothing. 

England are hard to play. It is like trying to catch an oiled up ferret on ice skates, even if you grab them, they find a way to hurt you. India looked genuinely confused at Ollie Pope’s batting in the first Test, and at times in this series they have walked straight into England’s plans when batting. 

The English system is largely alpha male posturing partnered with hippie free love. It is less of a tactical masterclass, and more of a just do what feels good thing. So them winning the first Test - on a series that had they put the Kool-Aid down for, would have admitted was virtually impossible - meant even some of those who had one percent of doubt left in them now believed. 

How could you watch Tom Hartley destroy Indian batters and not thing Baz and Ben could make a the guy who sells peanuts at the concession stand into prime Imran Khan? Do you believe, ken oath. 

Yes India were still at home, with Rohit, Bumrah and Ashwin. But it didn’t look the same. 

Rohit, Jaiswal, Gill, Patidar, Safaraz, Jadeja, Jurel, Ashwin, Kuldeep, Bumrah, Siraj 

The exciting thing is that a lot of this came from the newer players. Yes, Bumrah did well. And Jadeja dragged his hamstring with him. But Rohit and Ashwin have barely had an impact this series. One of the key players in this match was Jaiswal, who has not yet played ten Tests, and has more double centuries than Mark Waugh. When he bats he looks like the future, an Indian who bats goofy footed, he slogs pace and destroys spin, can block, but will attack. You are only reminded of how young he is when he takes his helmet off and he looks like the love interest in a tween movie. 

Dhruv Jurel is clearly not the finished article yet. Especially in his keeping. But watching him bat it does look like has an awfully good future ahead of him. He’s all moving in the right way, seems to understand his game, and his keeping even got better as the match went on. His innings really helped India get on top in this game. 

Kuldeep was on the scrap heap not that long ago, and with India having so much talent, you could see how a player like him could be forgotten, or just not fight back in. But he worked on everything he did, and when Jadeja, Ashwin and Axar have all had their own issues, he has stood up. Whether it just by being different and getting Duckett to slice a shocker, or the much better wickets in the last match, he has kept the pressure on. And that is no small thing, because England have tried to hit him out the attack, and he’s still here. 

The same with Mohammed Siraj, who seems to be has a bad session of bowling and people forget he averages 28 across quite a few matches. Yes, he can be a spree wicket taker, and that can be annoying when he’s reloading. But at his best he ends innings. England started the third match trying to finish him off, but they ended the match not scoring much off him at all. 

And then you have Sarfaraz Khan. A player who became known as the RCB curse in the IPL. He changed his legacy by making a hundred every time he saw a red ball, and then had to sit back in a queue that had Prithvi Shaw, Gill, Iyer, Jaiswal and whatever potential stars India had. Not to mention fighting the own perception over his size. But he gets in the team, is part of an incredibly inexperienced lineup, and then just eases himself into a couple of 50s. Reminder that England bowlers are still yet to dismiss him, the only spinner who troubled him was Ravi Jadeja. 

At the start of this series, if you had Kuldeep Yadav, Dhruv Jurel and Sarfaraz Khan as three of the most important players for India when the series was 1-1, your friends would’ve mocked you for that take. 

Things at home have been so easy for India, that this series has been fun just because it hasn’t. They have been made to work, from behind, against the vibe train, and with all sorts of obstacles in their way. 

Without R Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja all the time, or Kohli and Shami at all, India beat England by 434 runs loss. It is hard to stay positive when you’ve had the eight biggest loss ever by runs. But perhaps more importantly, this team of non-first choice players inflicted Bazball’s biggest issue yet, a moral loss. 

England were bowled out for 122, fine, that happens, but scoring at barely three runs an over. Fellas, your strike rate took one hell of a beating.