Team India has come under fire for losing the first two Tests against England. Down 0-2 in the five-match series, captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri are facing severe criticism, especially after the Indian team losing the Lord’s Test by an innings and 159 runs.
Only Indian captain Virat Kohli has shown some spine with 149 and 51 in the first Test at Birmingham and then some good scores at Lord’s. It has been said in media that team India has been overly dependent on captain Virat Kohli when it comes to the batting department.
However former Sri Lanka captain and now commentator Kumar Sangakkara begs to differ on this point.
“It is almost unfair to the other batsmen because we have seen Virat batting like he has for the last few years. It is incredible to watch and he is an incredible performer, but others are also fantastic players,” Sangakkara told PTI in an interview.
Sangakkara continued, “Pujara and Rahane are absolutely great batsmen – Pujara averages 50 in Test cricket, Rahane averages 50 overseas. Then, there are others. KL Rahul looks brilliant (when in form), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Dinesh Karthik – these are no insignificant names.”
Sangakkara cited lack of preparation for the troubles of Team India and said, “They have struggled here and one of the reasons could be lack of preparation. So they really need to think hard because you cannot prepare while you are playing the Test matches. You have to find that confidence to answer the questions asked by English bowlers in training and in practice games. English bowlers have exploited the usual sub-continental weaknesses here and that has created more questions than answers for the Indian side.”
Sangakkara also analyzed the heavy defeat at Lord’s and said, “It all went wrong at the toss itself. They were great bowling conditions on day two, and James Anderson and Chris Woakes made life tough for them. When you are out for 107, and conditions the next day are very good for batting, it is hard to pull things back even when Mohammed Shami bowled beautifully.”
He continued, “It leaves a question mark on the Indian team selection. If you are playing five days then yes under the sun, it would have been different with two spinners coming into the game. But they really didn’t make any impact on the game. The England batsmen regrouped really well after initial breakthroughs. Again in this innings the English bowlers showing that they know the conditions and how they can make an impact with the swinging ball.”
Talking about Virat Kohli’s decision to play two spinners at Lord’s, Sangakkara opined, “They made a decision based on an having an extra fact bowler there, and having said that, fast bowlers usually do most of the damage at Lord’s. So they should have stuck with more or less the same team, or bowling attack (by bringing in Pujara for Dhawan). Hardik Pandya played, but they could have played an extra batsman and an extra pacer instead if they wanted to.”
Sangakkara also picked the point of changing the playing XI in every Test, “They haven’t played the same side for now 37 Tests, so that goes a lot to say how things are. I am not saying that it is a bad thing but sometimes in Test cricket batsmen and bowlers need consistency in selection. It gives you confidence, trust and the courage to go out there to perform for the side. Sometimes changing and chopping is not a negative thing, and sometimes it can be a negative thing. But a change always has to be tactical (not for the heck of it).”
The Sky Cricket commentator added when asked about changes in the team after SA tour, “If it is bothering them, then be open about it – talk to the captain, the coach and the management. Ask them, ‘can we have a little more consistency because this is bothering us’. But if they have bought into it (changing and chopping) and are fine with it, then it’s a different question.”
Kumar Sangakkara was mightily impressed by Virat Kohli and praised him.
He said, “I have been lucky to spend a little bit of time with Virat off the field. I don’t think he is intense at all. I find him absolutely wonderful to talk to – he is very open. He has other interests outside of cricket and is not just concentrating on the game all the time, which I think is great because that’s why he plays so brilliantly on the field. When he plays cricket, he is 100 percent focused on it. He wears his heart on the sleeve, is very passionate and it is great not just for him but also his side, and cricket at large. And I think he is a very good captain and will get better as time goes along. Everyone has a few weaknesses here and there. He has been a one-man army for India for a while, in terms of weight of runs.”
(with inputs from PTI)