“We ticked all the boxes we wanted to,” says India’s captain as he praises his bowlers too
It takes a lot to overshadow Virat Kohli in the middle. In Test matches, India’s No. 3s have to endure the long walk back to rampant cheers not for the work they did but for the fact the captain was coming to the middle to take control. So what chance did a debutant have? Apparently a really, really good one.
Ishan Kishan, who has been talked about as a talent ever since his age-group days, but who used to have problems with knowing when to attack and when to defend, and issues with the discipline it takes to be a cricketer at the top level, walked out under lights in Ahmedabad and announced himself with a 28-ball fifty that knocked the stuffing out of England’s bowling attack.
“Special mention to Ishan, the way he batted,” Kohli said at the presentation. “Changed the game completely. We were one down for nothing. I tried to do what I can but then he totally took the game away from the opposition. Kept following his instinct. Quality batting on debut.”
Trusting a game he honed under the strict guidance of four-time IPL champions Mumbai Indians, Kishan refused to take a backwards step, and that ensured India did not lose any momentum after an excellent bowling performance. When he finally fell for 56 off 32 balls, with five fours and four sixes, the prospect of the series-levelling up at 1-1 was merely a formality.
“When you play in the IPL with such dominance like he has, against quality bowlers, we’ve seen him hit international fast bowlers for big sixes,” Kohli said. “He’s a fearless character. He should continue to back his instincts. We had a conversation out in the middle where he understood and analysed the game very smartly. He knew he was hitting the ball well so he kept taking his chances. But he was calculated. He wasn’t reckless. And that’s what you want to see in youngsters. Coming in, looking composed, still backing themselves but being aware of what the situation of the game is and I think today that counterattacking innings of his and our partnership [94 runs off 54 balls] was something that the team needed and he provided that for the team.”
Kohli was equally effusive about the work his bowlers had done to restrict a power-packed England batting line-up to only 164. Washington Sundar continued to show that big turn isn’t necessary to pose a threat as a spinner if you have the smarts to know where the batsman hates having the ball and the control to keep nailing that spot. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, returning from a long injury lay-off in this series, was captivating at the death once more. Shardul Thakur, also shouldering the responsibility of bowling the end overs, nabbed the wickets of Eoin Morgan in the 18th over and Ben Stokes in the 20th.
“We ticked all the boxes we wanted to. Especially in the first innings with the ball. They were 100 at the end of 12 overs; 130 at the end of 15 and to give away only 34 in the last five, I think it was very smart bowing by all our bowlers. Special mention to Washi. He bowled to only one left-hander in the middle and to all right-handers, he used the big boundary really well, changed pace. But then Bhuvi, smart operator. Shardul bowled well at the end. Hardik chipped in with a few. Chahal was good today as well. All in all very very happy with our bowling effort and then with the bat as well. Convincing finish.”
The return of Pandya to the bowling crease was a particularly promising sign for the team as they prepare for the T20 World Cup in October. India have been very careful with their allrounder considering his history with back injuries, the latest of which required an operation to fix. Since September 2019, Pandya has bowled only eight overs across all forms of cricket, but that may very well be about to change.
“I have to give credit to him for the fact that he’s bowling at least three [overs] for us in games now,” Kohli said. “He’s worked really hard on his fitness and for the next six to eight months, he’s promised and committed to the fact that he’s going to give everything that he has and be that allrounder for us who features in all three formats probably. He’s going to be a vital part of this team moving forward. He’s put in a lot of work to arrive at this place. Now it’s all about managing his workload and keeping him fit and ready to bowl whenever the team wants and his intent is of no doubt. He plays for the team at all times and these kinds of players are priceless.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo