England's marathon tour of India, spanning nearly three months that included five Tests, three One-day Internationals (ODI) and as many Twenty20 Internationals (T20I), finally came to an end on Wednesday, albeit in a rather one-sided manner that summed the former's stay in the country up in one game.
Even though the visitors were never quite considered favourites to win silverware in the tour, they were perceived as the team that would perhaps give India the toughest fight among all the teams that were scheduled to tour India in the latter's home season. England have been on the rise ever since their disastrous first-round exit in the 2015 World Cup, and they seemed to have India's number in recent bilateral engagements, whether it was their emphatic 2-1 Test series win on Indian soil in 2012, or the crushing victories back home in 2011 and 2014.
India, however, rallied around captain Virat Kohli, and produced a refreshing, positive brand of cricket that helped them win all three trophies that were up for grabs. Alastair Cook was left searching for answers as the Indians trounced England in the five-Test series, to walk away with a 4-0 victory margin. Even though Eoin Morgan utilised his resources admirably to put up a much better fight in the limited-overs legs of the tour, his side ended up falling short both in the ODIs as well as the T20Is.
Even though there were a few issues that needed to be addressed by the Indian think-tank well in time before preparing themselves for the bigger hurdles that lie ahead of them this summer, there are numerous reasons for them to pat themselves on the back, whether it was the emergence of young stars in the side or the return to form of some of the more senior members.
If Kedar Jadhav was the most valuable discovery for India in the ODI series that preceded the T20Is, Yuzvendra Chahal contributed more than handsomely with the ball to grab that honour in the 20-over matches. He shone in the Kanpur T20I, where he was the only member of the Indian attack to offer any resistance to the Englishmen whatsoever as the visitors romped home with a seven-wicket win.
While he was hammered for runs in the second game at Nagpur, he more than made up for it with a terrific return in the final game, recording the best figures for an Indian bowler in T20Is as well as the third-best overall. In a destructive spell that triggered a spectacular English batting collapse, in which they lost eight wickets for as many runs in a space of 19 deliveries, he finally broke open the shell to set himself free in the world of international cricket. The young leg-spinner from Haryana will now look to continue to keep the show going for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL).
The next big factor for the Indians was the pair of Jasprit Bumrah and Ashish Nehra, with the medium-pace duo making waves with their death bowling. In a series that was mainly dominated by the bowlers (a rarity for the format), Bumrah proved once again why he was India's go-to man when it came to the last four overs of the innings, even more so when there was a target to defend. The final over of England's innings in Nagpur is a testament to that fact, and Bumrah's ability to mix his off-cutters with the yorkers made him a very difficult bowler to pick.
It would not be far-fetched to say that Chahal and Bumrah were by far the key reasons behind India's ability to stage a comeback after conceding the lead in the first match.
Veteran bowler Nehra, on the other hand, got the hosts early strikes with back-to-back wickets in the second T20I of the series in Nagpur, effectively silencing those who had questioned his effectiveness after a long gap due to surgery, or those who had doubted his fitness and accuracy due to his age. For now, Nehra remains an integral part of India's plans as far as the shortest format is concerned, and the left-arm pacer has sent out a clear message that he is not likely to hang up his boost anytime soon.
The other player to make his presence felt in the T20Is was Amit Mishra, both with his timely breakthroughs as well as his fielding efforts that were a unique mix of brave and hilarious. Mishra had decimated New Zealand in Visakhapatnam with figures of 5/18, before cutting a forlorn figure in the two Tests that he played in the England series. Mishra, who is perhaps one of the easiest members of the Indian squad to get overlooked in favour of fresh talent, can perhaps take some of the credit for the English collapse in Bengaluru, where his tight second spell drove Morgan to play a rash shot in the following over by Chahal, with the rest being history.
Moving on, the other departments of the team did not quite fire as they were expected to, but the Indian batsmen did just about enough in the final T20I by posting a 200-plus total, a score that was a good one for the track, although not an impossible one to chase down.
Such was the impact of captain Kohli's raging form last year, as well as in the Test and ODI series of this tour, that scoring centuries became something of a mundane accomplishment for the Delhi lad. That he could only produce scores of 29, 21 and 2 in the three T20Is is something that would make most fans rub their eyes in disbelief. During the post-match press conference in Bengaluru, Kohli was questioned on his effectiveness as a T20I opener, with the captaining cheekily reminding the reporter of his four centuries at that position in last year's Indian Premier League (IPL), aside from jokingly suggesting that his failures allowed other batsmen in the team to rise to the occasion.
Maybe 'Cheeku' was referring to the likes of Suresh Raina and KL Rahul grabbing the opportunity to score valuable runs for the team. Raina marked his comeback with an innings of 63 in the final match, establishing the foundation for India's competitive total. Hitting his first T20I half-century since 2010, the knock helped Raina restore his confidence, and boosts his chances of selection for India's future engagements in the shortest format. Rahul, on the other hand, needed the 47-ball whirlwind innings of 71 to get back among the runs after recording a dip in the one-dayers following a successful outing in the Tests.
The middle-order veteran pair of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh gave their fans a reason to flash a broad grin with their epic 256-run stand in the second ODI in Cuttack, with the latter resurrecting his international career with a magnificent 150.
While the two were not in their best touch in the first two T20Is, with Dhoni's hitting abilities in the dying stages of the innings being effectively countered by another fine exponent of death bowling in Chris Jordan, he made up for this by smashing his maiden T20I fifty in the following game — having waited 76 matches in the format to bring up the milestone. Let's not forget, Yuvraj's 10-ball 27 was equally effective in getting the hosts past the 200-run mark.
The next time we see the Indian team donning the blue jersey will be in the Champions Trophy that takes place in June this year, which will be Kohli's first major tournament as the full-time Indian captain in limited-overs. While the four-month gap in between could prove detrimental for the Indian team in their preparation of the title defence, the hosts have pretty much made all the permutations and combinations with the squad and their options ahead of the mega event. All that remains henceforth, is match practice and some inspiration.