India will head into a couple of limited-overs series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand in January before facing Australia in a four-Test series. It’s make-or-break time because the team has to win at least three of those four Tests to assure themselves of a place in the World Test Championship Final.
India’s go-to tactic at home has been to dish out dry pitches on which the ball turns from the first session of the first day and three spinners come into play. But the team management might think twice before dishing out rank turners against Australia because the Indian batters themselves have looked suspect against spin, like in Mirpur.
India, of course, will have Ravindra Jadeja back in the ranks but Nathan Lyon and the tall left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, who should be in a position to extract some turn and bounce, can make life difficult for India’s top order.
TOI takes a look at India’s areas of concern…
VIRAT & CO.’S STRUGGLES AGAINST SPIN IN SECOND TEST IN MIRPUR
India were reduced to 94-4 in the first innings in Mirpur before Iyer and Rishabh Pant pulled off a rescue act. In the second innings, chasing 144, India were 74-7 at one stage. It wasn’t that the ball was turning viciously, it was just doing enough to keep the spinners interested. Leftarm spinner Shakib Al Hasan and offie Mehidy Hasan, however, bullied India with the new ball in fading light on Day 3.
India’s stand-in captain KL Rahul seemed to be a bundle of nerves while Shubman Gill, despite all his talent, looked like a fish out of water. The most disappointing was Virat Kohli, who looked out of sorts in the entire series. He ended with a series aggregate of 45 and looked unsettled against spin.
Kohli showed during the T20 World Cup in Australia that he can still be a force, but that was a different format on truer pitches against a different kind of attack.
Kohli has gone without a Test century for three years and he will probably have to go back to some of his old red-ball heroics to figure out what he should do to recapture some form.
IS THE THINK-TANK DOING ITS JOB?
At a time when some forward-thinking teams have brought in different coaches for different formats, India have stayed on with Rahul Dravid and his chosen ones. After the T20 World Cup debacle, the selection committee led by Chetan Sharma was sacked while the coaching staff that made the decisions in Australia stayed on.
In Bangladesh, Kuldeep Yadav, ‘Man of the Match’ in the first Test, was dropped in the second Test even though there was turn on offer. Kuldeep is a wicket-taking bowler but Dravid is extremely cagey about playing wrist-spinners. It was his decision to bench Yuzvendra Chahal throughout the T20 World Cup, a decision that backfired. An in-form Kuldeep’s absence from the playing XI allowed the Bangladesh tailenders to post 72 runs in the second innings.
It can’t be denied that the aggression that had become part and parcel of the Indian team in the last four years has faded out significantly under Dravid.
ODI WORRIES REMAIN AHEAD OF NEXT YEAR’S WORLD CUP
The ODI series defeat left some pointers as the Indian team gets into World Cup mode. Ishan Kishan scored a magnificent double century in the inconsequential third ODI after India had lost the series and it will be an injustice if he doesn’t find a place in the playing XI going forward.
The team desperately needs an attacking approach at the top and that could mean some of the seniors like Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan must make way for some young dashers who have been waiting in the wings for a while.