“Proper functioning of both head and tail are necessary as none can survive by taking blows to its body for long”
Another toss lost, another match lost!
This has been becoming quite a trend for the Indian team as far as overseas conditions are concerned.
The loss at Perth against Australia was their seventh overseas loss this year in a total of 10 matches.
We can’t blame them as a win percentage of only 18.6% for teams chasing in Tests, since 2010, sums up how difficult batting in fourth innings has always been.
However, the loss at Perth also leaves us to ponder if that is the only reason that can be attributed for such a dismal result, despite having the so-called best unit for an overseas tour in years.
The answer is No!
The main reasons can be attributed to the consistent failures of their openers and their tail which actually appears to be non-existent. In other words, it can be said that India have a head that doesn’t work and a tail that doesn’t wag. The functioning of both are necessary as none can survive by taking blows to its body for long.
India’s middle order consisting of the likes of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant constitute that body which has taken all the blows this year. Couple that with the superb performance of their bowlers, and that is how they have sneaked out three victories out of their 10 overseas matches so far.
The Indian openers have averaged just 18.27 this year in overseas conditions (SENA countries) with only one batsman—KL Rahul’s 149—registering a score of 50 plus. Take that score out and the average will drop down to an even dismal number of 14.92.
In the same number of matches this year, their opposition openers have averaged 28.78 with one century and six scores of 50 plus. So, that sums up quite well how the poor performance of the Indian openers has put the team behind right from the start.
The Indian middle order has always tried to drag them into the match but they India lost the grip on the matches always once they departed. The tail has turned out to be their area of concern once again with no players capable enough of fighting with the bat.
The Indian tail averages just 10.83 in overseas Tests this year which is again boosted by the unbeaten innings of 86 from Ravindra Jadeja. He hasn’t featured in the team for overseas matches since that knock in England. Take that innings put of the equation and the tail averages just 9.37.
When the performance of the tail of their rival teams in the same matches is considered, an average of 17.44 once again shows where the difference has been between the two teams.
This kind of performance can be attributed to the unfathomable trust shown on their batsmen by the skipper Kohli and the Indian team management. They have underestimated the opposition bowlers and quite highly overestimated their batsmen and the result is there to see.
A bowler who can bat well in the tail is always a luxury for a team to have. While India have that in Ravichandran Ashwin, they have always ignored the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja who have found place in just two and one overseas Tests this year respectively. While Kumar has 101 runs to his name at an average of 33 in those matches, Jadeja scored 99 runs in the only overseas match he has featured in this year and boasts of an average of 99.
So, flawed team selection has a lot to do with India’s failures this year too.
Till 2015, the last time India toured the SENA countries before this year, their main problem was their pace bowling department which couldn’t compete with the hosts’ bowling unit. That’s where they kept felling short despite trying their best with the bat.
India’s overall opening average of 32.56 in SENA countries between the years 2010 and 2015 tells us how trustworthy the openers were during those days. They recorded 3094 runs in 24 matches which included six centuries and 16 scores of fifties as well. So, that sums up how everything has fallen apart for India in terms of opening when you look at their average of 18.27 this year.
Even their tail could be trusted to score runs more often than not. Anil Kumble had retired by then but India still had the likes of Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar who were a tough nut to crack for the bowlers when it came to grinding it out at the crease. The tail scored 2143 runs in 24 matched during this period at an overall average of 15.30, something much better than what India have recorded this year. Their 10 scores of 50 plus in those 24 matches was also testimony to their prowess with the bat.
However, everything has deteriorated now. The efforts of India’s world class pace bowling unit is being undone every time by the failures of their openers and a trustworthy tail. Both problems can be solved by picking the right players but India need to solve that soon if they don’t want to squander their best chance of registering a Test series win Down Under.