India vs England: Half-fit Ravichandran Ashwin flops; all-round batting failure exposes suspect technique against spin

Had Ravichandran Ashwin been subjected to the Yo-Yo test before start of the fourth Test, we would have perhaps been spared the embarrassment of watching him bowl in such a sub-standard manner at the Ageas Bowl.

Worse, his poor bowling contributed massively to the 60-run defeat India suffered at the hands of England and thereby lost the five-Test series 1-3.

Ashwin had bowled like a maestro in the first Test where subtle variations in line, length, turn, speed went superbly with his new-found ability to make the drift work in his favour. In the fourth Test, his off-spin was expected to be India’s trump card on a track that ought to have been the spinner’s delight.

Ashwin failed to have any impact on a suitable pitch, and his meltdown cost India dear in fourth Test. AFP

But Ashwin let the team down in his attempt to hide whatever injury he was carrying. He failed to pivot on the front foot, and couldn‘t bring his hips and body into play. He was just pushing the ball with fingers and shoulder and this in turn reduced him into an ineffective bowler in both innings.

The crying need was for him to carry the attack on his shoulders. Had he done so, England would not have so easily recovered from 86 for 6 in the first innings nor amassed 271 in the second essay. In both innings, England scored 30 runs too many.

Ashwin’s ineffective bowling became all the more glaring when his counterpart Moeen Ali walked away with the Man of the Match honours. His incisive off spin bowling made the difference between the teams. The fact that he bamboozled nine batsmen supposedly adept at playing spin showed the vast chasm between the qualities of off-spin on offer for either side.

Actually no praise can be too high for the rest of India’s bowlers. The fast bowlers bowled superbly on a pitch not to their liking and kept the English batsmen on tenterhooks right through. The Ageas Bowl pitch was as brown as an M Chinnaswamy Stadium or Wankhede Stadium strip. Nor was the weather particularly swing-bowling friendly. But India’s seamers revelled when actually it should have been Ashwin calling the shots.

The tragedy was that it was a very well known fact that the visitors’ batting unit was a pushover, save for skipper Virat Kohli and to a lesser extent Cheteshwar Pujara. Thus any fourth innings target in excess of 175 was always going to be a touch-and-go affair.

But Ashwin’s pathetic bowling performance on a pitch tailormade for him left the team chasing far more runs than it should have.

Openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul have had such a terrible series with the bat that it would come as no surprise if the number three and four batsmen also padded up before the duo could face the first ball.

Dhawan’s mode of dismissal was so predictable. Time after time he has got out edging either his drive or his checked push to slips. The sad part is that he never learns which is unlike top quality international cricketers.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who between them have close to 1000 Test wickets (990 at the end of the Test), needed to be handled with caution. But Dhawan, who ridiculously tried to charge Broad in the first essay, had little or no confidence to try and play himself in.

He looks to be in no condition to score big runs anytime soon and hence the sooner young Prithvi Shaw is brought into the playing eleven the better. If nothing else he’ll at least learn from his mistakes. That characteristic is beyond Dhawan.

Rahul, of whom much was expected, has been one of the biggest flops of the tour. The only redemption is his catching in the slips. Otherwise this has been an eminently forgettable trip for him. Had he crouched with his left shoulder leading, rather than standing up, he could have handled the Broad delivery that castled him. But his confidence too is so shot to pieces that his approach to batting is all too muddled.

If the team management is interested in his long-term career as an opening batsman, they’d do well to veer him away from T20 cricket and instead get him to sort out his issues with technique.

Rishabh Pant was another who seemed to have hardly put any thought into his batting. He had played uppish strokes and had succeeded in pushing the field back. In such a situation, he needed to bat smart and push the ball along the ground for singles and twos, rather than challenge the catching ability of the deep fielders. It is common cricketing sense that a batsman cannot repeatedly middle big shots on a turning pitch. No wonder his dismissal, caught at deep cover off Moeen Ali, looked school-boyish.

Indeed, much of India’s batting in the series has hardly looked convincing. The glorious exception has been skipper Virat Kohli. Take him away from the equation and this batting line-up should rank as one of weakest to have left Indian shores in recent times.

It is time for selectors, team management and the batsmen themselves to wake up and smell the coffee.

Updated Date: Sep 03, 2018 12:36 PM

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