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India WTC – India take cue from England’s failings: back your instincts but also focus more on defence

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India WTC: As England got dominated by some class New Zealand bowling twice inside three days in Birmingham, their Indian counterparts had much to observe and take out from their failings ahead of the World Test Championship (WTC) final.

With England on the brink in Edgbaston and about to suffer their first home series loss since 2014, former skipper Nasser Hussain took the entire batting unit to task and questioned their technical acumen at the crease.

Hussain was particularly bemused by how far down the lane of unorthodoxy have English batsmen fallen, with their unique stances and downswing holding them back every time they come up against a skillful and persistent attack in challenging conditions.

While it’s good to trust your own methods and retain a level of uniqueness, Hussain insisted nothing justifies compromising on your basics. He added that England batsmen’s struggles, despite boasting of five of their regular top 7, point to deeper issues with their thought process and coaching at the county game.

 

“There seems to have been a reinvention of the wheel out there with batting. Techniques out there that everyone else who has played the game before – they are all wrong and we are right,” a disappointed Hussain was quoted as saying on Sky Sports.

“We’re going to have these odd little techniques, we’re going to have the bat coming across it, we’re going to stand funny, we’re going to swing outside our off stump because everyone else in the history of the game – Viv Richards, you are wrong, and we are right.”

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India WTC

India WTC – India will take on New Zealand in the World Test Championship final

India WTC: Hussain urged the entire England batting unit to go back to basics, abandon their unorthodoxy for a while and focus simply on piling on big first-innings total. To emphasize his point, he added there has been a difference of “chalk and cheese” in the way England and New Zealand have batted.

The Kiwis, who don’t have the best of batting line-ups in the world in foreign conditions, have still shown more composure and resolve to fight through the difficult phases and stick to the wicket under pressure, unlike the Englishmen.

Given the skill level and the relentlessness of this New Zealand attack, it’s difficult for any batting line-up to continue playing strokes and last a distance without focusing on the virtues of leaving the ball and defending it firmly.

India WTC – India take cue from England’s failings: back your instincts but also focus on defence

India WTC: Thus, England’s sufferings offer a learning opportunity for an Indian team based in Southampton at the moment. For Virat Kohli’s team, the task will be even tougher when Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson return to join Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and leave no openings for them during the WTC final.

Undoubtedly, Indians are more orthodox, freeflowing batsmen, with a sound basic game to counter all kinds of bowling. But their defensive technique in English conditions – where the ball doesn’t just swing in the air but also seams off the track – has been found wanting for a while. The team have suffered losses in 11 of their last 14 Test matches in England.

While an average Indian wicket has fallen nearly every 25th run in these 14 Tests, the visitors’ scoring rate has stayed above three runs per over (3.16). It points to a pattern. Indian batsmen have looked to overcome the pressure exerted on them by the likes of Broad and Anderson through shots on both sides of the wicket and have lost wickets in the process.

“Intent”, under Virat Kohli’s tenure, has been a widely spoken term and often misunderstood as well. The word ‘intent’ is not just about the strokes you play in the face of adversity, it’s also about the willingness to bide a difficult phase through, not give away an inch – something Cheteshwar Pujara does so commendably – and grind the opposition down.

It’s obvious when the quartet of Boult, Southee, Wagner and Jamieson operate from either end, there won’t be any freebies on offer. And India can look to counter that with their natural instincts to change the flow of the game – think of Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant here. But, that should only be secondary mode of operation, as it involves risk – the New Zealand quartet won’t mend their ways easily with some counter-attacking. India will have to focus on defence to survive and score runs.



A cricket writer by heart and profession. Currently at work for CricXtasy. Previously with Circle of Cricket. You can find him on Twitter @crickashish217