Bengaluru, September 14: It's a fact that the Virat Kohli led India were hugely competitive in the series against England, often dragging the home side to uncomfortable positions. But it remains a fact that India lost the Test series 1-4 despite roughhousing England on more than one occasion.
The inquest will begin now. It may provide us with several reasons - openers failed but for KL Rahul's 149 in the last innings of India in England, R Ashwin's injury and gradual fading away after bright beginning, Hardik Pandya's inability save for a wonderful spell at Trent Bridge etc. Ravi Shastri's role as a coach too will come under scrutiny.
But among all the ruins around him Kohli stood tall as a batsman. He was head and shoulders above other batsmen from either side. At one point, it was Kohli vs England. After all, 593 runs in 10 innings at 59.30 with two hundreds and three fifties are not worthy of ridicule.
Kohli the batsman will receive a Perfect 10? But how many marks Kohli the captain would get on that scale of 10? 5, perhaps? Those aforementioned numbers clearly suggest that Kohli's batsmanship has not been affected by his captaincy. In that sense, it's rather rare too as several great players of the past had struggled to carry the dual burden of batting and leading the side. He leads with almost infectious passion too. And Kohli deeply cares for Test cricket, at least his statements indicate to that.
In the post match press conference at the Oval, Kohli admitted to India's inability to master the big moments in the series. He was true. But rather inadvertently, Kohli was commenting of his own frailities as a captain in the series. He was caught up in his own bubble of aggression and passion that Kohli often did not see the obvious.
Great day at training today. Looking forward to the next game. ✌️ pic.twitter.com/RSvnH4EZdm— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) August 16, 2018
The management - if the group has more voice than Kohli - decided to leave Cheteshwar Pujara out of the eleven in the first Test at Edgbaston. England were tottering at 87/7 in that Test and instead of deploying Ashwin, who has been wonderful against left-handers in that Test, Kohli for some reason decided to take the off-spinner out of the attack. Effect: Sam Curran and other late order batsmen gave England a handy lead and India lost the Test by 31 runs. Pujara's presence might have benefited India in a relatively small chase.
They went in with two spinners at Lord's when the conditions suited pacers and in effect bowled with three bowlers. At Southampton (4th Test), they did the opposite - went into the match with a lone spinner in Ashwin who was clearly not 100%. When Ashwin struggled to use the rough on the pitch in the third innings, Moeen Ali, his England counterpart, comfortably outbowled Ashwin to walk away with a match-winning nine-wicket haul.
And by what transpired at the Oval, the team management or Kohli will have to look at Ravindra Jadeja more than just as a stop-gap option - along with his handy left-arm spin, Jadeja also brings some depth down the order and he is also a terrific fielder in almost all positions. Then the management risked Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the third ODI against England and the pacer did not recover from the strain and missed the whole Test series. It was a massive loss even on hindsight.
Even in the series against South Africa early this year, Kohli and India backed off when a little more thoughtful approach could have saved them the day. South Africa were 195/5 in their second innings but Kohli replaced Mohammed Shami and Ashwin, who were among a good spell, with Ishant Sharma and Hardik Pandya. South Africa set India 287 and won the Test.
Before embarking on the tour of South Africa, Shastri had said that the 18 months ahead would be defining for Indian team. "This one and half years will define this Indian cricket team and the whole team is aware of that," Shastri said. "With the tours of South Africa, England and Australia are coming up, all I can say this will be better cricket team after those 18 months."
South Africa tour ended with 2-1 defeat. England trip ended with 4-1 defeat. They hardly can be counted as milestones in a defining journey. Australia remain ahead of the road. It's hard to imagine a different result unless Kohli finds another route as captain and the team itself comes out of the self-created cocoon of all those tags and rhetoric.