Time for India to put their best foot forward

The Indians landed in England with huge confidence and identity, seemingly having a great side, the No.1 Test team in the world tag and more. But then the game has proved how things can change so drastically in such a short period like a couple of Test matches.

The expectations had been so high even before India landed In England that a couple of lost Test matches have raised so many questions and doubts and let out some of the ghosts that have haunted touring Indian sides in the past.

Of course there are wins and losses in Test cricket, the Indians came so close to winning the first Test and it was perhaps a golden opportunity to win a first Test of a crucial, big series. But then they were never even in the match at any point in the second and that doesn’t augur so well for the confidence levels.

They were a tad unlucky, it could be said. The conditions were against the Indians at all times through the Test. My heart goes out to the Indian batsmen. They were against a superior English attack (in comparison to the Indian attack) and that which looked even more menacing because of the conditions.

Let us be honest. An Indian batsman will never face that kind of bowling wherever he plays cricket – First class, India A or even county cricket for that matter. England’s pacers were relentless and showed absolutely no signs of fatigue whatever.

But then the lack of skills to handle the English attack were far more evident in some more prominently than the others. I had written this before and at the risk of repeating myself have to drive home the point that head position is crucial and an important part of batting but then footwork is equally important. It’s the balance between the two that will help a batsman get in to the right position.

As it is, the Indians haven’t given themselves enough time to prepare themselves for such a tough tour ahead of them nor have they have thought about taking any foreign help. An English batsman who has played a lot of cricket being with the team would have been invaluable on a long tour such as this where the batsmen seem to be looking for answers. Why not, I wonder. Acceptance could be the first step forward.

The most successful Indian batsman in my books in England was Rahul Dravid and he had magnificent footwork, to say the least. Even when Virat Kohli has batted in England, he has looked his best when he got that foot out closer to the pitch of the ball thereby reducing lateral movement off the wicket by cutting the angles. That was hampered in the 2nd innings of the 2nd test because of a back niggle.

Vijay and Pujara have looked to leave the ball which has worked for both of them in the past but I am afraid that would not be a long-term solution in this series. Needless to say, as an opener or a top order batsman one has to let go off most balls but then the boundary options when the ball is pitched full or even slightly short has to be taken. Otherwise, the bowler is not under any pressure to hit the line and length and his target keeps becoming bigger. The English have four options and neither do I see them tiring in this weather nor will the ball lose its shine or hardness. Hence it is even more important to make time at the crease count.

Vijay is an excellent driver of the ball, a flourishing front foot player. He is driving fluently whenever he is batting at his best. Being an opener it’s a nice quality to have, bowlers look to pitch the ball up a lot with the newer ball on helpful conditions. A little tweak in his mindset should help him a great deal, he should start looking at the ball pitched up as boundary scoring opportunities rather than dangerous ones as he seems to be seeing them right now. It’s amazing what the power of positive thinking can do to a batsman, his footwork and his judgement of lines would be instinctive and that’s when a batsman is at his best.

Dinesh Karthik has had his troubles against the moving deliveries in the past especially the ones coming in to him. Broad, Anderson and Curran are extremely good in bringing the ball in to the right-hander and it has had the Indian keeper in a spot of bother. DK has been consistent and prolific with the bat over the last two years but then they mostly come with the white ball and in limited overs cricket. Saha had been the keeper when it came to Test matches. It’s easy to lose self-confidence and start doubting yourself in situations such as these, but it is important for him to look back on the past series. As an opener, he had averaged a remarkable 43.83 in the same country in 2007. A quick glance back at those numbers will do him good than the scores he has had in this series.

It is difficult to iron out any technical flaw that might be existent in the middle of the series, but then it is important to stay positive and believe that one belongs there to be among the best and has the ability to come right at the highest level.

Perhaps the Indians can take a leaf out of the Indian lower order who I thought approached batting really well with positive affirmative footwork and good intent to score runs. Even though it was brief and the ball slightly oldish, the English bowlers seemed to be little off when Hardik Pandya and Ashwin were at the crease and put on a sprightly 55-run stand for the 7th wicket after those above had fallen cheaply.

Most of their boundaries scored were off the front foot and down the ground when ball was pitched up and severe on any bit of width provided by the bowlers. Contrary to popular thinking, runs have to be scored on the front foot in England where bowlers are striving hard to pitch the ball up.

And India will have to put their best foot forward to come back in the series.

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