Regardless of their thrilling 151-run victory in the second Test against England here on Monday, India need to review their selection policy, and consider playing a wicket-taking spinner like Ravichandran Ashwin for the remaining three Tests in the five-match series.
It was India’s third win at the Home of Cricket, the two previous successes coming in 1986 under Kapil Dev and in 2014 when Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the captain.
Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah demolished England on Monday with returns of 4/32 and 3/33, respectively.
Ravindra Jadeja is a priceless fielder and a capable enough batsman. But for four innings running, he has been wicketless, including on this occasion in the fourth innings of a match.
It negates playing five bowlers if one of them is ineffective and does not provide the spin potency and variety he is meant to. The left-armer’s trajectory is at present too flat for purchase.
On the fifth and final day of the Test, there was assistance in the overcast, slightly heavy conditions for the quicker bowlers. But there was little in the pitch. There was negligible grass on it; and it hadn’t dried out enough or developed wear and tear for it to conspire with spin.
A quality spinner, though, would have beaten the batsmen in the air and by flighting the ball.
So, while the Indian dressing room exulted at their unfancied tailenders Mohammed Shami and Bumrah undefeatedly realising 89 runs for the 9th wicket, that too against a new ball, it underlined the placidity of the wicket.
The day began with India hoping that they could set England a target of at least three runs an over in the last venture.
Conventional wisdom suggested this could only happen if Rishabh Pant spent no less than an hour at the crease. That did not materialise. The left-hander having characteristically shown signs of aggression, edged one from Ollie Robinson which was taken by Jos Buttler behind the stumps.
Defeat, distinctly possible overnight, now stared India in the face. Shami and Bumrah, though, dramatically transformed fortunes, without requiring too much luck. Their enterprise ensured, batting-wise, the most bountiful two-hour session of the match — 105 runs were scored before lunch.
Shami hit off-spinner Moeen Ali with the turn for a four and a six to long-on and midwicket back-to-back to post a thoroughly well-deserved 50 — his second Test half-century since 2014 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
There was no prospect of the current England batting line-up scoring 272 in 60 overs on the fifth day of a Test, no matter how unworrying the wicket was.
In fact, India sensed victory when England slumped to 67 for five, with their mainstay Joe Root caught at first slip off Bumrah for 33. But the catcher Kohli then dropped Buttler in the same position. The batsman was on three and had faced only 12 balls. He went on to tackle 96 balls before being caught at the wicket off Siraj.
Slightly belatedly Jadeja was brought on to exploit the rough at the Pavilion End, with Ali the left-hander on strike. Immediately the batsman snicked to the wicketkeeper, the umpire turned down the appeal, India asked for a review, but the slow bowler had committed the cardinal sin of delivering a no-ball.
(Senior cricket writer Ashis Ray is a broadcaster and author of the book ‘Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge’)