England succumbed to a thumping loss by an innings and 25 runs on Saturday to end a mentally draining four-match series in India. On the back of a 2-0 series victory in Sri Lanka, England started the India tour with an emphatic win in the first Test.
Since then it all went downhill. Sure they were affected by the rotation policy and Jofra Archer’s injury but it’s hard to believe that the scoreline would’ve looked any different. India lived up to its ‘most dominant home team in the world’ tag and thoroughly outplayed the visitors. But If England were told they would win a Test match in India and be alive in the series till second day of the fourth Test, they would’ve gladly taken it.
The visitors were heavily criticised for the rotation policy and for prioritizing T20Is and IPL over Tests. But it’s unfair to expect players to give up on the riches and the experience of IPL. Players have been spending too much time in bio-bubbles away from family and it is important to look after their mental health too. However, England need to execute it better. For instance, not resting Jos Buttler in Sri Lanka and not having him in India for all the Tests was a massive blunder on their part. Especially considering their backup keeper Ben Foakes was the Man of the Series in the previous Sri Lanka tour, he could have played in Sri Lanka.
England’s criticism should largely be for team selections and non-flexible batting order. England were badly hit due to the quality, or lack of it, of the second spinner. It is the team management’s fault that Amar Virdi, who has made waves in the county circuit, wasn’t given a look in during the Sri Lanka series. It’s also hard to understand why they went back to Dom Bess for the last Test after they had lost confidence in him. Why Ben Foakes, England’s second best player of spin wasn’t promoted up the order is another head-scratching question.
Should they be too worried about the batting unit? England’s average innings score in their last seven innings was 144, failing to cross 200 six times. Surely seniors should’ve done better as six out of 11 batsmen that England tried in this series were touring India for the first time. Conditions that are most challenging for non-subcontinent teams. The genius of Ashwin and Axar Patel’s speed combined with his near perfect accuracy offered them no leeway whatsoever. Odds were stacked against them.
Chris Silverwood and Joe Root have given this team a new dynamic. They’ve adopted an old school brand of cricket and have picked players who have piled on runs in first class cricket. From having Jason Roy opening to having batsmen who can grind, England have come a long way. England’s recent success, 3-1 victory in South Africa, 2-1 win against West Indies, clean sweep in Sri Lanka, winning a test in India has been a testament to that. Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope have all been important part of that success. There’s no reason for any drastic changes because of a series loss in the most challenging away tour.
Dan Lawrence is one of the biggest positives from this series. He was the most assured England batsman in the fourth Test, scoring 46 and 50 in two innings. His backfoot play has looked impressive and his eagerness in stepping down the wicket worked for him. Lawrence has made a name for himself as one of the best players of spin in English circuit and if he can improve his game against pace, England will have a very good prospect at their hands.
Dan Lawrence has been more controlled than every other England batsman. He's played a false shot to just 13% of the deliveries bowled to him in this Test, the lowest for England. #INDvENG
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) March 6, 2021
Olly Stone, in the only opportunity he got in the series, looked mighty impressive with the ball. For a seamer who’s playing his first match in India to bowl with some serious heat on a turner was an exceptional effort. His addition has strengthened England’s pace attack and he could do well away from home.
The experience they’ve gotten from this tough series will only make these players better. After years England seemed to have built a team that can be dominant at home and can compete away from home. England should continue to back them, nurture them. Stick to the process and more results will follow. After all, even a win wasn’t quite expected from them when they first landed.