How would you rate Indian batters from the position of 336/6?
Yashasvi Jaiswal - 10/10
Rohit Sharma - 2/10
Shubman Gill - 4/10
Shreyas Iyer - 3/10
Rajat Patidar (On debut) - 7/10
Axar Patel - 6/10
KS Bharat - 3/10
It's fundamentally clear after Day 1 of the Visakhapatnam Test that a reboot is nothing but necessary. Well, it will be forced when Virat Kohli and KL Rahul return - possibly for the Rajkot Test - but for a country that is known for its squad depth, this has been a clear aberration from the usual narrative.
In 2019, when India played in Vizag for the last time, Rohit’s 176 was the differentiator. Alongside Mayank Agarwal, Rohit forged a 317-run opening partnership, so much so that Dean Elgar’s 160 and Quinton de Kock’s 110 couldn’t save South Africa from facing a 203-run loss. Returning to the city where he has maternal roots, the Indian skipper showed a timid description of his quality.
Simply said, he never looked convincing, and his dismissal was as soft as one could get.
Meanwhile, nothing could have stopped Shubman Gill from putting all discussion about his Test career behind him and showcasing the qualities that have made him such a superstar in limited-overs cricket. But alas! Playing his 22nd Test, Gill’s average dropped below 30.
It’s been 13 innings since he has crossed the 40-run mark. Overall, in his Test career, which is now 40 innings young, Gill has failed to cross that number 31 times - a staggering underachievement. If this is not an alarming sign of his immediate future in Test cricket, then one can really wonder about the depth of Indian cricket’s wider talent pool.
Shreyas Iyer's is a similar story. Before making his Test debut in 2021, Iyer had last played a first-class match back in 2017 but immediately took to red-ball cricket like a duck to water. His Kanpur century was an immediate validation, but the way he took on the menace of Dhananjaya de Silva in Bengaluru was how he established himself as the premier spin-basher in the Test setup. That even shut the door on Ajinkya Rahane’s No.5 aspirations.
But his apprehensions against England were nowhere close to that menacing face he exhibited a year ago.
As a matter of fact, this is only the second Test innings where India's No.3 to No.6 were dismissed for a 25+ score without converting a single one to a 50+ score, 34 years after their debacle at the Lord's. How could you change that?
Virat Kohli has issues against spin, too, but we’re talking about perhaps the most hard-working cricketer of the generation, who has made run-scoring fun (yet again) in 2023. If the evidence from the South Africa series was anything to go by, count Kohli off at your own peril.
Then, there’s Rahul too. In Hyderabad, his knock typified his resilience to shine through. Someone had jokingly said, “Put the word Strike rate word away from Rahul, and then, we are perhaps looking at the most complete batter of the generation.” Even though it is a hyperbole, there is an element of truth there.
No one knows about the situation that Virat Kohli is going through on a personal level and if he will be available for Rajkot, but if he does return and Rahul recovers from the right quadriceps injury, India will have to do away with Gill and Iyer to accommodate the duo.
It should happen because Rajat Patidar, the other option to be replaced in Rajkot, looked very much like an assured Test batter during his 32-run stay in Visakhapatnam. His ability to stay composed and play spin with merit is why India look at him with so much hope. We don’t even need to talk about Sarfaraz Khan and his appetite to score runs consistently.
For a batting unit that used to take so much pride in playing spin, almost like second nature, the last eight years have been quite an aberration. Not least anyone since Cheteshwar Pujara - with suitable apologies to Mayank Agarwal - has looked so confident of taking on a spinner. Rohit Sharma did the job for a while, but he seems long gone from the avatar that took the field in Chennai three years ago.
So much hype has been retained around England and their audacity to play four spinners in a single Test that India will almost never prepare an Ahmedabad 2021 kind of pitch again. If anything, that levels the visitors up more than India would want to - so the Vizag pitch seems the most ideal.
But if they continue to throw away their wickets on flat decks, there is possibly a larger issue at play - one of systematic ignorance and impatience.
Whatever that might be, not going back to the grind wouldn’t solve the problem. But are the Indian stars ready for it?
Have we seen the last of Iyer in whites for a while?
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