Debate on pitches will continue, but India’s supremacy over England was not in doubt
It was back to the tried and tested methods as India’s practitioners of the slow-art, especially R. Ashwin and debutant Axar Patel, helped Virat Kohli’s men clinch a 3-1 Test series triumph over England. India’s innings and 25-run victory in the fourth Test at Ahmedabad, concluded a series that was largely one-sided barring England’s win in the opening encounter at Chennai. Like it did in Australia, India shrugged aside the early loss and turned around its fortunes in riveting fashion. The pitches on offer, especially for the third game, may not have been ideal, tending to age faster besides providing the obvious impetus to spin. Despite the surface-tension, the strips were in no way diabolical like some of the 22-yards offered in the past, especially in the 1980s when a few pitches made batting arduous. In the latest series, after skipper Joe Root’s double ton in Chennai set the stage for an England ambush, a stung India mounted a fiery comeback and ensured that the Englishmen never repeated their heroics of 1984 and 2012, when they humbled the host.
This was not just another success at home as the four Tests were invested with the larger goal of qualifying for the World Test Championship final in England from June 18 to 22. Originally scheduled to be held at Lord’s, there seems to be some ambiguity as England is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic’s second-wave and there is a push to have it at Southampton’s bio-secure Ageas Bowl, which also has a hotel within the premises. Lord’s may still conduct the premier clash but India’s rival is certain — Kane Williamson’s New Zealand, an opponent that stunned Kohli’s men in the 2019 World Cup semifinal at Manchester. Meanwhile, it is time for limited-overs cricket to take centre-stage. India and England will play five Twenty20Is and three ODIs before the Indian Premier League commences on April 9. For now, Kohli and company besides the coaching staff led by Ravi Shastri deserve credit for a splendid performance. The flowering of Rishabh Pant, Axar, Washington Sundar and Mohammed Siraj reflects a solid bench-strength. The excellence of youth and the terrific form of Ashwin and Rohit Sharma, papered over the modest returns from Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Shubman Gill. India has topped the ICC Test rankings but in June under low-slung clouds and on an English pitch laced with grass and against crafty New Zealand seamers, a tougher scrutiny awaits.