India’s shabby performance in England over the last three Tests can be put down to numerous reasons. The batting is definitely one of the biggest causes, but the Indian bowling has also gone downhill with every succeeding Test. Remember India have not played a five-match Test series since 2002. On that occasion as well, they went on to lose the series 2-1 after being 1-0 up against the West Indies in the Caribbean Island. In England as well, they are struggling, and look set to go 3-1 down despite securing the lead first at Lord’s.
The way they have underperformed in the last three Tests, it can only be assumed that they are not fit enough to last five Tests. As mentioned above, none of the players in the present squad have featured in a five Test series since the same was played over a decade ago. Also, India’s younger generation has been bred on massive doses of T20 and ODI cricket, so the bowling performance, like the batting, has also taken a beating. The line and lengths of the bowlers in the last couple of weeks has been awry to say the least, and that comes from lack of Test match practice.
The case of Bhuvneshwar Kumar is a classic example of how India’s bowlers haven’t developed the ability to stay potent for the duration of five Tests. It is almost as if a different player turned out for India in the first two Tests, and another one has played for the side in the last three. In the first two Tests at Trent Bridge and Lord’s, Kumar was at the top of his game, getting the ball to move well enough to trouble the batsmen, and with a consistent line and length claimed five-wicket hauls in both the Tests.
Starting from the Southampton Test though, Kumar has struggled to be effective. There was enough in the surface for him to exploit on the opening day at the Ageas Bowl, but he failed to make any kind of impression. He has looked completely jaded at Old Trafford and in the ongoing Test at The Oval as well. This is a result of the excess bowling he did in the first couple of Tests, but Kumar definitely has a fitness issue to address. Even his batting has gone downhill after he began the series with three fifties in four innings.
Ishant Sharma’s name should also come into the picture. After the wonderful effort at Lord’s, Sharma had put India 1-0 ahead in the series. But although he had given India the momentum, he couldn’t be fit for the next few Tests, which allowed England to claw back into the series. It was Sharma’s first match-winning performance in ages, and thus what followed was extremely disappointing. In contrast to Indian bowlers, their England counterparts are guaranteed five Tests every two years courtesy the Ashes, which is why the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad have not lost steam over the course of the series. Something for the BCCI to ponder upon.
--By A Cricket Analyst