Much like in Australia, the series win over England at home had several agents of victory; neither the absence of injured stars nor the underperformance of a few big names proved an obstacle
Four of India’s top five batsmen didn’t fire consistently. The pacers hardly had any role to play. But it didn’t matter eventually. India still bounced back in style after a hiccup in the opening Test to roll England over and seal its spot in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand.
The best thing to emerge from the 3-1 series triumph, from India’s perspective, was that, just like in Australia, several cricketers put their hands up in crunch situations. It wasn’t just one or two big players carrying the team. Thanks to the multitude of contributors, the team dazzled.
Rohit Sharma set the ball rolling with his sweeping success en route 161 in the second Test in Chennai. As captain Virat Kohli admitted later, the opener’s knock was instrumental in turning the tide in India’s favour. Even though Rohit couldn’t muster runs of a similar scale in Ahmedabad, his knocks in the final two Tests proved crucial in setting the platform for India’s victories.
With Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane being unable to deliver consistently with the willow, the onus was on Rishabh Pant, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel and Washington Sundar to rise to the occasion. And they did so in style. Ashwin may have been adjudged the ‘Player of the Series’ for his all-round performance, but Pant arguably had the biggest impact on the series.
The left-handed batsman carried his form from Australia and unsettled England’s spinners, especially Jack Leach, in the series-opener. After an unbeaten fifty in the second Test, the final Test offered a glimpse of his maturity as a batsman. After being patient until India closed in on England’s first-innings total, Pant turned belligerent to stun even the likes of James Anderson and Ben Stokes and take the game away from the tourists. His glove-work improved drastically as the series progressed, justifying his claim to being the country’s top wicketkeeper-batsman.
While Pant was pounding the England bowlers, the Tamil Nadu duo of Ashwin and Washington nonchalantly stamped their authority with the willow. Washington, especially, underlined his utility as a batting all-rounder. He may have run out of partners to be deprived of a deserving hundred twice in the series, but his contribution indicated that he will have many more opportunities to reach the milestone in the future.
Ashwin, the off-spinner, yet again flummoxed a hapless England line-up. His 32 scalps, which helped him surpass the 400-wicket mark along the way, were a testament to his artistry and his desire to strive for excellence all the time. He had a surprising but able ally in Axar.
The Gujarat left-arm spinner ended with 27 wickets in just three Tests in his debut series at an astounding average of 10.59. As head coach Ravi Shastri said, not only did Axar ensure India didn’t miss Ravindra Jadeja but he has also created a happy headache once Jadeja regains fitness.
With the young guns blazing to glory, it looks like Shastri and Kohli will have to deal with a problem of plenty in all departments for the next few years.