England are 3-0 down and 4-0 is looming. They’ve won the toss in their last two fixtures and they haven’t got close. What else did we learn at Mumbai?
GOOD PITCHES, GOOD CRICKET
There’ve been a few Tests of recent vintage that have ended in really exciting fashion but the dénouement has been preceded by three or four days of ditchwater dullness. And pitches have inevitably and rightly been in the spotlight. The tracks in this series have provided interesting if not utterly compelling matches, but have got gradually better for cricket as the series has gone on.
And this Mumbai track has been great. An even covering of grass, with a good amount of turn and bounce, has rewarded the really good bowlers and the really good bats. There have been no huge cracks opening up but a lot of rough to work with – a proper pitch producing proper cricket, and one which has shown that India don’t need to prepare minefields to succeed.
THE TRUTH HURTS
“More than the surface, I think the quality of our bowling is far better.” So said Parthiv Patel on day two. “Our bowlers get definitely more revolutions on the ball than what their spinners are doing. And obviously, we vary our pace very well. We have deceived a lot of players in the air, rather than just waiting for the help off the wicket. I think there’s definitely a lot of difference in the quality.”
He went on to say that England’s spinners had been exposed when it didn’t turn at Mohali and that batting against England’s slow men was made more comfortable by the fact that a bad ball was always around the corner. It hurt, and some would argue it was a touch unprofessional to be so candid in the middle of a Test, but his argument has been backed up time and time again in this series.
INDIA SHOULD WIN AWAY
It’s clearly the big test for this side. Anil Kumble said afterwards that he didn’t want to compare eras and sides but added he was very excited about what this India team could go on to achieve. Virat Kohli is hell-bent on making them a force away from home, and what he wants he normally gets. There’s no reason they can’t start doing that.
Their bevy of spinning allrounders is the envy of every other Test side. With Ashwin and Jadeja at No.7 and No.8, plus three seamers (Shami, Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Sharma is a decent quarter to choose from) and Jayant Yadav in reserve, there’s a bowling attack that can win in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and England. Don’t forget to add in a top six that’s overflowing with ability.
ENGLAND’S SELECTION IS MUDDLED
England went with the 4-2 approach to seamers and spinners for this Test and they got it wrong. Joe Root admitted as much in a post-match press conference on day three, Alastair Cook had similar sentiments post-play today. They expected it to do more for the seamers, but they ended up with one ineffective seamer too many. They’ve got things to sort going into Chennai.
There was criticism here that the 4-2 approach was a response to the Mohali Test – where off-spinner Gareth Batty was redundant at times – but that indicates that England’s XI for the Chennai Test can’t be speculated on too much until we know the state of the pitch. Liam Dawson could well come into the mix, if it looks like it could take turn, and England could rest one or two now that the series has gone. It is at least traditional to end a tour in a state of confusion.
CRICKET CAN BE FUN WITHOUT ALCOHOL
Lagered-up Barmy Army boys and girls on the terraces are part and parcel of watching English cricket abroad. But not in the Wankhede Stadium where, apart from in the odd hospitality box, beers are not exactly readily available. The enjoyment levels are still sky high, however. Wildly excitable Indian fans and English tourists d’un certain âge have been mixing with each other – laughing, joshing, sharing stories and a genuine love of the game – and creating an unforgettable atmosphere.
There is something distinctly unnerving to a reserved Englishman about the levels of hysteria the mere sight of King Virat can provoke in entire swathes of the Indian population – the cries of Kohli, Kohli, Kohli will ring in many English fans’ ears long after they touch down once more in Blighty – but there are many ways of exhibiting a bit of craziness and it’s great to see one unfuelled by alcohol works pretty well for English and Indian alike.