India should view their disappointing 4-1 series loss to England as a missed opportunity. They were highly competitive in the series – apart from a disastrous loss at Lord’s – but the squad had enough ability to do better than just compete.
The batting was disappointing and especially the way they played spin bowling in Southampton. A great opportunity went begging when their failure to be more proactive against Moeen Ali meant a chance to level the series was squandered. Apart from Cheteshwar Pujara, no player was prepared to alter the offspinner’s flight path by leaving his crease. The series loss is even more of a wasted opportunity when you consider how well the Indian fast bowlers performed.
India now have to look on rehabilitating their reputation in the highly anticipated series against Australia but the batting inadequacies have to be addressed. While Australia’s batting is questionable, with their two best players, Steven Smith and David Warner, missing through suspension, the bowling attack is still extremely strong.
If Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Patrick Cummins and Nathan Lyon remain fit then the Indian batsmen will be in for a challenging time. In England it was movement through the air and off the seam that created regular problems for them – apart from Virat Kohli – but it will be the extra bounce in Australia that sorts the men from the boys.
A confident and in-form Rohit Sharma would be an ideal player to bolster the batting in Australia. His authoritative horizontal bat shots are perfectly designed to cope with the testing extra bounce, but sadly Rohit has never really come to grips with batting in Test cricket. Selecting him for the tour would be a gamble.
On the subject of facing Australia, the England selectors have done little in preparation for next year’s Ashes series. It is expected selectors will pick a team to win the current series, but they also have to have one eye on the future. The England selectors have been myopic when it comes to the next Ashes series.
It’s fine for all Englishmen to bask in the glory of Alastair Cook‘s fairy-tale finish to his career but this shouldn’t blind everyone to the team’s shortcomings. Cook was more relaxed having made his decision to retire, and that helped concentrate his mind to provide one last grafting memory. However, those suggesting that Cook could have played on are completely ignoring the blindingly obvious evidence of the last 12 months – he was gone.
If it hadn’t been for the paltry output from his opening partners, Cook could well have been omitted a number of times in that period. He was fortunate to survive but he made his luck count by going out on an extreme high, enjoying the heartfelt warmth that the English public bestowed upon him for his enormous contributions to the team.
The selectors now need to uncover two opening batsmen as Keaton Jennings’ flimsy defence won’t survive against Australia’s premier pace attack. Adding to England’s problems, they still don’t have a viable No. 3. Against Australia’s pace attack, Moeen isn’t the answer to the first-drop headache, and he also hasn’t had much success as an offspinner in Ashes series.
Consequently England’s possible spin attack for the Ashes series is far from settled, as I don’t see Adil Rashid being the answer. While the England pace attack is good and performed brilliantly against India, it still lacks the option of a genuine speed merchant. In 2012, at the Under-19 level Jamie Overton appeared to be a possible answer to that need. Fast and combative, he looked to have all the requirements, but a series of injuries and limited opportunities with the new ball at county level have hindered his progress. His selection would require bravery but it could reap big rewards.
If either India or England underestimate Australia because of their recent travails, they could well be punished. I await the next few months with eager anticipation.