India are in danger of going 0-2 down in the five-Test series against England unless the elements, which made their life miserable after being asked to bat first, conspire to save them or even help them to turn the tables on the hosts.
After the first day’s wash-out, conditions were difficult for batting even though the pitch reports suggested that it was dry and good for a knock. At least one former captain thought Virat Kohli losing the toss was a blessing in disguise though he Indian captain also wanted to bowl.
The conditions were certainly not batting-friendly as the ball did turn quite a bit and England had the ammo to attack relentlessly. It is not easy to deal with James Anderson in any conditions and this day he was making the ball talk. He craftily planned his five dismissals.
The social media was not kind to the Indians and some got too personal, as they would in such circumstances. Someone shared a picture shot of the Lord’s menu card and the twitterati had their fill matching it with the scorecard!
Some said the Indians may not have left anything in their lunch plate just as they forgot the art of leaving the balls not in their range. Leaving the ball has become a topic of discussion whenever the top-order batsmen fail to negotiate the new ball jagging around.
But in both the Tests, the Indian bowlers brought the side back by demolishing the top-order of England batting, significantly at Lord’s playing with a meagre 107 runs. Imagine, Ravichandran Ashwin not getting to bowl at all in the first session on the third day. Such was the dominance of Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma and Hardik Pandya and they bowled in conditions that were nowhere near those the English bowlers bowled in.
Both in the Birmingham Test and now in the second at Lord’s, the Indian batsmen clearly did not know where the of-stump was. When the ball is swinging and seaming, it is that much more difficult to judge its movement.
England captain Joe Root found a funny answer as to why the “leave” is going out of the game. “Social media came in!” he told a pre-match media conference at Lord’s.
“I think that creeps into everything else that you do. Naturally the (Test) game has got quicker. Twenty20 has come in and guys playing all three formats, it’s always going to have some impact in your game,” he added.
“It’s not just our team and India’s team that are wanting to hit the ball a lot more. It’s a general rule in world cricket. It’s the way that the game has moved forward.”
Yes, Twenty20 has changed for the better two aspects of Test cricket, batting and fielding. The run-rates are up significantly and the fielders are throwing themselves at the ball more and showing their acrobatic skills in picking and plucking catches.
It is frustrating to watch your team punch far below its known skills or expected form. All the same critics tend to get too harsh. Even cricketers who have played good grade of cricket try to have a dig at the players sounding like trolls.
A quick check on stats found that better equipped teams were shot out for low double-digit totals on the green tops at all the famous venues in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
Believe it or not, Lord’s is notorious for low scores and had scores of 78 or less in as many as 14 Test innings, making India’s 107 look pretty decent. It all started with their 42 when they went back in 1974 after winning their first series in England in 1971 under Ajit Wadekar following their series win in the West Indies.
All major teams were bowled out for less than 80, New Zealand had the worst of it, they flopped four times, England and Australia thrice each and West Indies, South Africa and Pakistan once. It only proves how difficult it is to bat at cricket’s headquarters.
Why go far, barely a month ago, South Arica were shot out for 73 with by Sri Lanka at Galle and over a year ago, England were in danger of recording the lowest Test score. They just about managed to surpass the 26 of New Zealand when they reached 58 after being 27 for nine.
On the much-maligned Indian turners, there were only three scores of less than 80 in an innings. The first one was India’s 75 against the West Indies at Ferozeshah Kotla, the second in 1987 in Ahmedabad when they were shot out for 76 by South Africa. Then it was South Africa’s turn to get dismissed for 79 at Nagpur in 2015.
It is all so easy to say that a team has to perform on all pitches and in all conditions, but circumstances do matter. The problem with fans is they expect their team win every time they get on to the field. It is not only with India, but it is with all teams the world over.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expessed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])