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Captain Kohli left a lot to be desired 

New Delhi, September 12

Virat Kohli the batsman exorcised the ghosts of a horrendous 2014 series but his captaincy left a lot to be desired in the just-concluded series against England which again turned out to be a case of “what it could have been”.

Kohli is in fact right when he says that barring the Lord’s Test, they were not totally outplayed but England played better cricket during the key moments during the series.

The series loss (1-4) yet again proved that as a batsman, Kohli is way above his peers not just in India but away also.

His tally of 593 runs, with two hundreds and two half-centuries, and his battle of attrition with old nemesis James Anderson is the stuff of legends. The difference between Kohli and the other Indian batsmen was stark with the second highest scorer being KL Rahul — 299 runs, 149 of those coming in a dead rubber when the pressure was off.

Where Kohli erred was not realising that his teammates were not as prepared for testing English conditions as he was. The Indian team reduced the duration of its one-off practice game against County champions Essex, a move that was criticised by none other than Sunil Gavaskar.

Kohli, however, differed stating that practice matches are worth it only if there is a good opposition and the pitches are of Test quality.

“Kohli should understand that if he doesn’t play for a month, he would still come out and score runs. But others need time. And in practice games you won’t get Test quality attacks. But the batsmen and bowlers in the match situation add miles to their legs. It’s better than taking throwdowns,” Gavaskar had said recently.

Team selection

The biggest problem that plagued India was dodgy team selection. Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored a determined hundred in the Nottingham win, was not included in the team for the first Test based on his poor form. Ravichandran Ashwin lacked the bite when he had the most helpful conditions in Southampton, a pitch that could have been ideal for Ravindra Jadeja. 

Kohli’s over-dependence on Hardik Pandya’s all-round abilities in red-ball cricket can also be questioned. That he never possessed the defensive technique to bat at No. 6 was evident as he was ill at ease against the swinging deliveries. The skipper’s persistence with Shikhar Dhawan, who has been a walking wicket outside the Subcontinent, also created problems at the top of the order.

Wrong team combinations

While Kohli was unlucky to lose all the five tosses, his reading of the pitches and the team combinations left a lot to be desired. Not picking a second spinner in the first Test at Edgbaston in Birmingham where the pitch offered turn and bounce was an error. It was compounded by the choice of a second spinner in the second Test at Lord’s in London where conditions aided seamers.

While India have a very good set of fast bowlers who used the conditions well, they were often guilty of not being able to get rid of the England lower-order. It happened in the second innings of the first Test in Birmingham, both the innings in the fourth Test in Southampton, and the first innings of the fifth Test in London.

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