At the post-match press conference, after Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow inflicted a crushing defeat on India at Edgbaston, Rahul Dravid was asked about England’s Bazball. The Indian team head coach saw the funny side of it.
“Pata nahi yeh kya hai (don’t know what it is),” Dravid said half in jest and breaking into a smile. On a serious note, he said: “I must say the cricket they (England) played for four Tests, chasing like this in fourth innings doesn’t happen often in this country. But the brand of cricket you play depends on players and their form. You can play positive cricket and take the game forward when you have in-form players. And we also showed that during the partnership between (Rishabh) Pant and (Ravindra) Jadeja in the first innings. We also play positive cricket.”
Talking about form, on Tuesday, Root scored his fifth Test century this calendar year, while Bairstow notched up his fourth ton in three Tests. On the contrary, India’s best batsman, Virat Kohli, hasn’t scored an international hundred for close to three years now. Rohit Sharma’s absence at Edgbaston, and also in South Africa, made matters worse for the team. Form could be a fickle mistress in any sport, but between the lines, Dravid also probably spoke about having players with the right profile to emulate England’s aggressive brand of cricket.
Successfully chasing 378 in the fourth innings in 76.4 overs against India’s bowling attack was really a tough task, although, by Dravid’s own admission, Indian bowling lost its intensity, as the hosts marched ahead.
— Guess Karo (@KuchNahiUkhada) July 5, 2022
Bazball is basically an embellishment. Bravery forms its very foundation. Ben Stokes said as much, at the post-match presentation after the game yesterday. “We take away the scoreboard and how many runs there are to chase, it’s all about taking wickets. Sometimes teams will be better than us, but no one will be braver than us.”
The England captain spoke about setting a new template for Test cricket. “We are trying to rewrite how Test cricket is being played, in England in particular. It’s not always about top of off, it’s about taking 10 wickets.
“We know that we want to give new life to Test cricket, and the support that we have had has been incredible. We are bringing a new set of fans to Test cricket. We want to leave a mark.”
At the other end of England’s bright new dawn lies India’s impending transition. A cycle is nearing its end – some players, fantastic servants of Indian cricket over the years but on the wrong side of 30, probably have played their last overseas Test and going ahead, Dravid has a lot of work to do. Some of that work could even be ugly.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s batting in the second innings at Edgbaston showed the days of obdurate Test batsmen aren’t over yet. But he is an outlier in an era of the Pants and other gung-ho young cricketers. Also, not everyone has Pujara’s defensive technique.
Going ahead, Dravid and the selection committee will have to decide if players like Hanuma Vihari should be in the scheme of India’s Test things or someone like Suryakumar Yadav, oozing innovation and enterprise, is a better choice. Talking to this paper a few months back, former India captain and ex-chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar called for Surya’s prompt inclusion in the Test team.
For the moment, though, India have dropped to fourth, behind Pakistan, in the World Test Championship (WTC) standings. They have six more Tests in this cycle – two against Bangladesh and four against Australia – to do the course correction. The home advantage notwithstanding, India might have to win all six of them to play the WTC final.