Virat Kohli had won the toss in all three matches during the recently concluded Test series against New Zealand. Maybe the law of averages caught up with him in the first Test against England. Rajkot also offered a sleeping beauty; a breakaway from the Indian norm.
The ACA-VDCA stadium pitch in Vishakapatnam was not a minefield; far from it… Still it was a huge toss to win because the wicket deteriorated as the match progressed. Alastair Cook’s body language after losing the toss spoke pessimism. Perhaps it even sent the wrong signal to the dressing-room as well.
India had to take the game away from the opposition in the first innings and thanks to an in-form Cheteshwar Pujara and a sublime Kohli, they made the opportunity to bat on a fresh pitch count. A 200-run first innings lead tilted the balance completely in the home team’s favour.
England showed resolve and character throughout – from their bowling fightback after conceding the lead to Cook and Haseeb Hameed’s opening stand in the second dig that ate up 50 overs. Once they lost the toss, however, and put down Kohli in the first afternoon, they were playing catch-up. In the end, Kohli’s knocks – 167 and 81 – turned out to be the real difference between the two sides.
Kohli and R Ashwin have been India’s biggest match-winners of late but this team thrives on collective efforts. Without Ravindra Jadeja at the other end, Ashwin wouldn’t be this effective and without late-order rallies, India wouldn’t have become serial winners.
A happy changing-room atmosphere is also a major reason for the success. It is providing mental space to debutants like Jayant Yadav to play with freedom and have no fear of failure. The Haryana all-rounder has taken to Test cricket like a duck to water. He is easily the biggest positive from this 246-run victory, along with the fast bowlers.
It’s heartening to see two Indian fast bowlers consistently hitting 90mph on home decks. Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav made a big impact with their pace, bowling with discipline and reverse swing (also a surprise bouncer on the fifth day). In fact, this is a special bowling unit, where all five bowlers are active participants on all five days.
As for England, it would be incredibly tough for them to bounce back from here; especially without an impact player like Kevin Pietersen. That the great batsman is in the Channel Nine commentary box in Australia while Ben Duckett is coming at No. 4 borders on a joke. A thaw in ego clashes might have served the visitors well.