Is there anything like an 'ideal' declaration in Test cricket? The dynamics that go into declaring an innings closed are so varied, and often unique, that there simply is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution.
There were those who argued that Virat Kohli could have declared India's innings closed at least an hour earlier on the third evening. This would have ensured that his bowlers got around 25 overs before close of play to try and make a dent in England's second innings. Instead, Kohli declared when only nine overs were possible and after setting a target of 521. By stumps England's flop opening pair of Alaistar Cook and Keaton Jennings had inched their way to 23 without loss.
The history of Indian cricket is littered with many contentious declarations; none more so than the one against Pakistan in Multan in 2004 where Rahul Dravid stood in as skipper after Sourav Ganguly pulled out of that first Test.
Dravid, chasing a historic first-ever Test win against Pakistan on their soil, declared the Indian innings with master blaster Sachin Tendulkar stranded on 194 not-out. Naturally, Tendulkar's supporters were livid.
They believed that the raison d’etre of Indian cricket was Tendulkar scoring runs – centuries and double centuries, if you please, and even years after the incident many continue to criticize Dravid, rather than praise him, for taking hard decisions which led India to one of its most famous victories.
Tendulkar too struck a similar vein in his autobiography. He revealed that the management and seniors had decided at Tea that the bowlers needed 15 overs to have a go at Pakistan's batsmen.
Tendulkar believed that he had two overs to get to his double hundred when substitute Ramesh Powar came out and said, "I should try and get my double hundred in that over. I was startled to say the least, because in my mind I still had 12 balls in which to score the remaining six runs before 15 overs were left for the day."
"As it happened, I did not get to play a single ball in that over with Yuvraj on strike against Imran Farhat. He blocked the first two balls before picking up two runs off the third ball. He once again blocked the fourth ball and was out to the fifth ball.
"Then just as Parthiv Patel, the next batsman started to come out, I saw Rahul gesturing us to go back to the pavilion. He had declared the innings with me stranded on 194 and with 16 overs left for the day — one more than we had agreed.
"I was shocked as it did not make any sense...."
"Disappointed and upset, I made my way back to the dressing room ...
"I calmly put my batting gear away and asked (coach) John Wright for a little time before I went out to field because I was feeling a little tight after batting for so long. Inside, I was fuming."
"Rahul said that the call was taken with the interests of the team in mind. It was important to demonstrate that we meant business and were keen to win. I wasn't convinced...." Tendulkar wrote.
India, eventually, won the Test by an innings and 52 runs.
Earlier, in the series in Australia, when India were chasing a rare series win, Dravid was batting on 91 off 114 deliveries when Sourav Ganguly declared. Unfortunately India did not have the bowling firepower to force a win.
These are not isolated incidents. England too have had many such moments. In one instance, Graeme Hick was disgusted at not being allowed to score a maiden Ashes century when his skipper Michael Artherton declared when he was batting on 98.
But these declarations were from a batting perspective. The Trent Bridge Test scenario was all about Indian bowlers' state of being.
The big ponderable would have been fitness. Another guiding factor would have been the need to conserve key bowlers for the two remaining Tests. Had this been the last Test Kohli would well have taken a chance to bowl his attack to the ground. But here he needed to ensure that they would remain fresh and raring to go for the remaining two Tests.
It was obvious during England's first innings that the lone spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin, was struggling with fitness. He seemed to have a groin muscle injury and was seen gingerly moving around.
Besides, Jasprit Bumrah was coming into this Test after a long injury lay off and it would have been prudent not to strain him excessively. Kohli's declaration, therefore, had to factor a psychologically daunting target that would put the match out of England's reach; a scenario where he could summon a relatively new ball in the morning; the possibility of opting for a second new ball later in the day; weather forecast for the next two days and an opportunity to spread the workload among bowlers and apportion rest as deemed fit.
Additionally Ashwin could be given more time to get his injury attended to. In ideal conditions he could play a huge role in the march to victory.
Thus the timing of a declaration is seldom a cut and dry decision. While victory is the paramount consideration, other issues like nurturing and preserving key players for the rest of the series must also be taken into account.
After all, as far as the bowlers are concerned, only half the series has been completed. They still need to stay sharp and focused for the next five innings and it is the skipper and team management's responsibility to pace them right.
As for the ideal declaration, the jury is still out and we may never know till the last ball of the fifth Test, if at all.