- In uncertain conditions, use your strengths first
- A culture of candor is mandatory for consistent success
After a solid performance at Trentbridge and a resilient win at Lord’s, many expected this Indian team to win Headingley and possibly seal the series. “Let’s create the history” was a tagline all over social media. Contrary to everyone’s expectations though, India bundled out for a paltry 78 runs in the first innings, eventually losing the test by innings and 76 runs. In this blog, we’ve penned down some of the lessons team India shall learn from the Leeds’ loss.
Rectify even after winning
Virat Kohli is famous for “horses for courses” instead of a winning combination. Surprisingly, he chose otherwise in Leeds. The decision looked right at the start because of the gritty show by the lineup in the previous game. Everything unraveled within the next couple of hours when the team folded for 78 runs though.
The much-debated duo – Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane – was once again under question. Fortunately, Pujara rescued himself with 91 in the second innings, but Rahane could not.
Going by stats, there is a glaring decline for both the batsmen in the last five years. The below stats – from Deepu Narayan of Cricbuzz – are a reflection of the journey to the south in their careers. The point here is not to disrespect both, but those stats don’t transpire confidence either.
At the end of the Indore Test against NZ in Oct 2016 when Rahane hit his career-best of 188, his average was 5.137. Pujara averaged 49.22 and Kohli 45.56.— Deepu Narayanan (@deeputalks) August 28, 2021
After Leeds Test, Kohli's average read 51.14, Pujara's 45.59 and Rahane's 40.18.#ENGvIND
Ishant Sharma’s case is quite similar. He has lacked consistency for the last two years. It is hard to imagine an unfit player in Virat Kohli’s XI. The run-up and the line lengths, both suggested Ishant’s ill-fitness. It looked more like the RP Singh of 2011, back into the XI straight from the vacation.
Positivity is one thing, Execution is other
India chose to bat after winning the toss in what looked like difficult conditions. One may argue that the management may have taken the call considering a positive approach of putting the reeling opposition under the scoreboard pressure. Pretty similar to the 2002 test between both sides.
Read More: The 51.5 Overs’ Theatrical Drama
The batting lineup 19 years ago though, backed the decision with the perfect execution, with three of the top five went on to score the century. A gritty inning by the Sanjay Bangar at the top was top-notch in addition. In the contemporary team, Pujara, Kohli, and Rahane are battling the from.
You cannot take positivity for granted when your middle-order is struggling. India should have gone with their strength – the bowling. An already under-pressure English lineup would have crumbled in difficult conditions. One may suggest that neither team assessed the pitch to be this difficult. In such circumstances, it is wise to use strengths first, not weaknesses.
Back the players, albeit with Candor
Across the world, communication has been the cardinal factor in any organization’s success or failure. Cricket and sport are no different. Look, I am not suggesting to drop the player even if management finds him valuable. Essentially, the management works closest with the players. However, the backing shall come with the right feedback to the player.
This is a third English tour for Kohli, Pujara, and Rahane. Uncharacteristically, all are repeating the same mistakes from their first tour. Virat Kohli making a repetitive mistake has come across as a shocker.
The need of the hour is to sit down with the experienced trio and talk about what’s on display. Unfortunately, it hasn’t seemed that way. Any top-level organization without a culture of candor is bound to meet its worst fate. The frequent meltdowns – 36 & 78 – are the outcome of not sharing the right feedback. The mistakes are bound to happen.