In recent times, India have not had the best run against England, having lost back-to-back Test series' in their opponents' backyard, while conceding a shock 1-2 series loss to Alastair Cook's team four years ago on their own soil, which is generally considered a graveyard for visiting teams.
India's repeated humiliation at England's hands made for a very interesting selling point for the marathon five-Test series between the two sides for the Anthony D'Mello Trophy.
Barring a display of temperament and stroke-play by Cook and debutant Haseeb Hameed in the second innings at Rajkot, which was followed by an inspirational spell of spin bowling by Adil Rashid and Zafar Ansari, the visitors were hardly able to get a grip in the series.
There were those who pointed towards Virat Kohli winning all three tosses in the New Zealand Tests as one of the primary reasons behind their 3-0 whitewash. In this case, Kohli ended up losing four out of five tosses, and ended up conceding first innings totals in excess of 400 in three out of five matches. Yet, India beat the visitors by a comprehensive 4-0 scoreline.
With the series finally having come to a close after more than a month's worth of action, it is time to look back at the performances of the Indian players, who are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 in descending order of points scored:
Virat Kohli (9.5/10): Sincerest apologies for taking half-a-point away from Kohli. That was but a feeble attempt at reassuring ourselves that the India Test skipper is human after all.
2016 is a year that Kohli will remember fondly. While he had been rising up the ranks since making his debut in 2008, it was this year that cemented his reputation as a batting superstar, and his feats in the latest bilateral engagement sums his year up in a nutshell.
The responsibility of leading the Test side only seems to have transformed Kohli into a batter batsman, and the Delhi boy went on to top the batting charts by amassing 655 runs at a remarkable average of 109.16, which only was bettered by Karun Nair after the latter’s triple-century.
While he notched up his highest Test score of 235 in a fabulous innings in Mumbai, it was his 81 in the second innings at Vizag that would arguably go down as his best knock, given the pace at which he scored despite the pitch playing the wildest of tricks.
Ravichandran Ashwin (9/10): The England Test series seemed to follow the same script as India's Test series’ against South Africa and New Zealand — Ashwin topped the bowling charts and played a vital role in triggering batting collapses. The reason behind striking a solitary point off his rating would be his ineffectiveness with the ball at Rajkot and home turf of Chennai.
However, performances such as that at the Wankhede in Mumbai (where he ended up taking six wickets in both innings), as well as his indispensability with the bat (306 runs at 43.71, including four half-centuries) make him one of the key players behind India’s 4-0 victory. Him topping the bowling charts with 28 wickets hardly came as a surprise.
Karun Nair (8.5/10): It takes an incredible feat for one to take the spotlight away from someone like Kohli. Maybe something like converting one’s maiden Test century into a triple hundred.
Young Karun did not have quite the best start to his Test career, getting involved in an unfortunate mix-up with his skipper at Mohali for no fault of his own, which was followed by a brilliant use of the DRS by England skipper Alastair Cook in Mumbai. Two low scores on the trot for Nair, and suddenly his maiden opportunity seemed to be slipping away from his hands much like his one-day debut earlier this year during the tour of Zimbabwe.
Until he struck what will go down as one of the greatest knocks of all time, and not just in Indian cricket history. In an innings that ensured the tumbling of quite a few records, the Karnataka lad ensured India declared with a lead that would give their bowlers enough stick to gun for an innings win.
Ravindra Jadeja (8/10): Jadeja believed that he played the perfect foil to his spin partner Ashwin at the end of the New Zealand Test series.
However, he turned out to be the undisputed star in the final Test in Chennai with a seven-wicket haul that helped skittle England out for 207 to seal an innings win for the hosts. Unlike the last two home Test series’, the gap between Jadeja and Ashwin in this series was just two wickets — the all-rounder nearly ended up outshining his former Chennai Super Kings teammate.
In the end, what eventually mattered was that Jadeja and Ashwin destroyed the opposition while bowling in tandem. That is ultimately what captain Kohli, the Indian selectors as well as the fans are looking for.
Jayant Yadav (8/10): One of India’s finds of the tournament, Jayant could not have asked for a better start to his Test career. Getting his maiden Test cap at Visakhapatnam, the same venue where he flagged his ODI career off, he made his presence felt with a three-wicket haul that helped bowl England out for a meagre 158.
Things only got better for him in the next two Tests in Mohali and Mumbai, as the off-spinner established himself as an all-rounder by getting his maiden Test fifty and century respectively. His 204-ball 104 helped setup a towering 241-run partnership for the eighth-wicket — an Indian record — with Kohli, who helped himself to his career-best score of 235.
An unfortunate injury ahead of the Chennai Test saw the return of Amit Mishra to the team, although Jayant had probably done his chances of retaining a spot in the team enough justice by then.
Cheteshwar Pujara (8/10): Pujara made the first-ever Test hosted at Rajkot all the more special when he brought up his ninth century in front of his home crowd, and the image of his wife going ecstatic while celebrating will be a lingering memory for Indian fans.
Pujara was a vital cog in the Indian batting machinery, especially in the first three Tests where he racked up two centuries and a 50. In the end, he finished with a total of 401 runs — the only batsman other than Kohli and Joe Root to cross the 400-run mark, marking what turned out to be another successful venture following the New Zealand Test series (he was dropped in the West Indies tour, one of the lowest points of his career).
Parthiv Patel (7/10): India’s home season has seen some interesting comebacks into the senior side. Gautam Gambhir made an emphatic return in the Indore Test against New Zealand, although he couldn’t quite repeat the feat at Rajkot.
Parthiv Patel, who was rising up the ranks under Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy, but the arrival of MS Dhoni meant his exit from the side. However, Patel got a much-awaited call-up after Wriddhiman Saha suffered an injury ahead of the Mohali game. Leading India’s chase of a tame target while scoring a half-century — and hitting the winning runs in the process — made for a bold return to the Test team.
He still might have some distance to go as far as his keeping is concerned, which was one of the core reasons for his eight-year exile from the most elite form of the sport. But the diminutive keeper-batsman has so far taken the right steps forward in ensuring he remains in the selectors’ reckoning, even if he might end up playing as a specialist batsman.
Mohammed Shami (7/10): While the spinners were the ones who walked away with all the wickets, the pacers did their job in maintaining pressure at one end, and chipping away from time to time, especially with the new ball.
The sight of Shami shattering Cook’s off-stump into two is one clip that surely will define his year, which marked his return to Test cricket after a knee surgery. He executed his responsibility as the leader of the attack in the series well, and could have ranked higher in the top wicket-takers list had it not been for a niggle that ruled him out of the final two Tests.
Despite that, he still ended up emerging the best pacer in the entire series, both in terms of his numbers and the impact in influencing match situations.
KL Rahul (7/10): The sight of Rahul sitting on his hunches after getting dismissed on 199 at Chennai was a heartbreaking one for fans as well for his teammates. Disappointment aside, it was an outstanding knock by any standards, one that would have made him the toast of the town had it not been for a certain Karnataka teammate slamming a triple ton.
Rahul once again had to battle injury in the series, missing out on the first and third Tests. The Royal Challengers Bangalore glovesman would have ended up recording disappointing numbers in the series had it not been for the Chennai ton, which turned out to be his first international century on home soil.
Murali Vijay (7/10): Like Rahul, Vijay has had to endure injury niggles in recent times, having played just one Test in the tour of West Indies. While he recorded back-to-back fifties in the New Zealand Tests, he couldn’t get going in the next two matches.
Even though Vijay suffered a couple of blips in the series, two centuries off his bat helped him reassert his reputation as the first-choice opener in the Test side. His stay at the crease at Wankhede, where he ended up scoring 136, stabilized the Indian innings after a couple of early dismissals. At Rajkot, he was at his flamboyant best as he forged a double-century stand with Pujara.
However, he would have wished for a better innings in front of his home crowd in Chennai.
Umesh Yadav (6/10): The Vidarbha pacer may not have had the best numbers among the pacers, but he executed his job of partnering Shami with the new ball well. With his pace regularly touching the mid-140s, and getting decent zip off the pitch, Umesh was effective in getting breakthroughs from time to time. In the current scheme of things, he will remain the new-ball pace option alongside Shami.
Ishant Sharma (6/10): Lack of fitness, as well as his marriage to basketball player Pratima Singh meant that the lanky speedster had to sit out of the first four matches.
Once selected into the XI for the Chennai Test, Ishant bowled decent spells in both English innings, including sticking to the plan of a barrage of short deliveries to Moeen Ali and getting the crucial wicket of Jonny Bairstow in the second.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (6/10): Bhuvneshwar got just one Test — the fourth to be specific — to display his skills against Cook and Co. He bowled an economical spell in the second innings, conceding just 11 runs off four overs while removing Jennings in the very second ball of England's second essay. However, Kohli's preference for the spin trio of Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant meant that he was not persisted with for long.
Amit Mishra (4/10): The spinner's struggles in the just-concluded series was highlighted on the final day of the fifth Test, in which some bad bowling combined with fielding lapses incurred the wrath of his skipper, as well as some jest from the commentators.
He somewhat made up for his shortcomings by finally unleashing the wrong ‘un at a stage when England were falling headfirst towards a disastrous loss. That, however, does little to save him from questions about his place in the Test side — five wickets from two Tests at 55 hardly helps his case.
Ajinkya Rahane (3/10): Being a first-choice batsman in the Indian batting lineup is a massive position to hold on to, given the massive reservoir of talent knocking at the selectors’ door.
Ever since notching up his highest Test score of 188 at Indore, things have been going downhill for the Mumbai batsman — scoring a meagre 143 runs in the series at 28.60. He only made his situation worse by scoring just 63 runs from five innings at an average of little over 12.
Displaying technical weaknesses, especially against the spinners, Rahane has increased the pressure on his shoulders. Even though there are little chances of the selectors axing him in favour of a younger batsman for the rest of the home season, Rahane has a lot on his plate if he is to shoo his detractors away.
Wriddhiman Saha (3/10): The rise of the Indian lower-order perhaps first began in the New Zealand Tests, in which the Ashwin-Saha led the charge whenever the top-order did not get going.
One of the reasons why Saha could not quite replicate such feats in this series was because of a hamstring tendon injury, which resulted in Parthiv taking over his spot. Despite barely scoring runs in the series — 49 runs in four innings — the Bengal keeper is expected to return to the side once fit.
Gautam Gambhir (2/10): The Kolkata Knight Riders skipper had scripted a fairytale return in the final match of the three-Test series, after injuries to the more favoured openers, Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. A half-century in the second innings, despite injury, suddenly made him a hero who finally got the much-deserved accolades.
But his world came crashing down again in the first Test. One fifty would be enough to extend the length of the rope, but not enough to guarantee him a spot in the side. Scores of 29 and 0 then virtually brought all hopes of him retaining his place for the rest of the series to an and, which was the case when he was dropped for the second Test, and then released from the squad.
*Hardik Pandya and Manish Pandey did not get a game in the series.
Updated Date: Dec 21, 2016 20:07:38 IST