Ishant Sharma might be the one earning gushing praise from all quarters for his match-winning seven for 74 but former England off-spinner Graeme Swann picked Ajinkya Rahane as the stand-out player in India’s historic win at Lord’s.
“Ajinkya Rahane was without a doubt the stand-out Indian player in the second Test. There is no way he could have ever batted on a wicket like this. He would have turned up on the first morning, and thought to himself ‘How do you bat on a pitch like this?’ And then he went on to get that beautiful hundred. That first innings was the difference in this Test,” said Swann.
“The way he batted, he made England come up with the most ludicrous tactic I could imagine. That’s not about the bowlers or the captain, that is purely down to the batsman. For me, Rahane should have been the man-of-the-match, no doubt!” added the retired cricketer.
India clinched their first Test win at the historic Lord’s in nearly three decades, riding on Ishant’s inspired spell of fast bowling that saw England losing their last five wickets for just 50 runs. The hosts slumped to 95-run defeat and give India a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
“Ishant bowled a splendid spell, don’t get me wrong. But a few of those wickets were simply gifted to him by some really bad shots by the English batsmen. I was surprised that so many of them got out in the same way,” said Swann.
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Rahane’s 103 helped India recover from a precarious position of 145 for seven on the first day and notch up 295 runs in their first innings.
“England wasted too many opportunities on the first day. They should have bowled India out for under-200 from 140-odd for seven, but they allowed them to get 295. James Anderson and Stuart Broad should be very disappointed with the way they bowled on the first day because it was a wicket more suited to them. And that is the problem for England,” said Swann.
“The whole team isn’t firing at the moment. You need senior players to step up at this time but there are too many players with bad form in this side,” he insisted.
Anderson and Broad bowled splendidly on a flat pitch in the first Test at Nottingham, but on a more helpful wicket
here, they just couldn’t rise up to the challenge.
Asked if England were missing someone like him in the ongoing Test series, Swann said, “Possibly, and possibly it is about the pitches as well.They are taking time to adjust which is surprising to say for such senior bowlers. But then, it is too easy to sit in the media box because you see things with a lot more clarity. In the thick of the action, you think your lengths are just fine and the edges should come when they are not coming.”
“It is the responsibility of the coaching staff to view from the outside then, and to a certain extent I think they are doing it because after the break in sessions, England did come back and bowled a lot better,” opined Swann.
“May be, it is a bit of bad form for the bowlers as well. A batsman plays a poor shot and gets out, and that is that, but the bowlers have to go through a whole day. It is the same thing for both and sometimes people don’t understand that.”
Swann said that the England selectors would have tough task at hands ahead of the third Test.
“The senior players just aren’t firing. Alastair Cook isn’t in form, Ian Bell isn’t scoring runs. Jimmy and Broad have been in poor form as well.
Sometimes the whole team gets hidden behind one player who is doing very well. It was Bell who did that for us the last year. Right now we have no one to cover for the other batsmen.
“We haven’t even got that one bowler to cover for the whole of bowling attack either,” he said.
The toughest decision would be whether to persist with Cook as captain. Clearly his poor form has started affecting his leadership skills but a supporter of Cook’s captaincy, his former colleague had an out-of-the-box suggestion for the under-fire skipper.
“He has done everything right. He’s gone over his routine, hit a 1000 balls in the nets and even got a start in the second innings. But nothing has worked for him. So personally I would like to see him do something unnatural, go against his game.
“Go have a couple of beers, eat some junk food, calm down and take some pressure off, and then smash the bowling when you bat. Just throw caution to the wind,” suggested Swann.
“But I know he won’t do that. So I don’t really know the solution to this problem,” he said.