28th Jan 2024, England turned out a deficit of 190 runs into a historic victory against India at Hyderabad thanks to an all-time great 196 from Ollie Pope and 7/62 from Tom Hartley.
While India’s bowling was nothing to write home about, India had laid down the signs of decline with Jaiswal, Rahul and Jadeja all struggling to get past the 80s, leaving the great day 3 batting surface for the English team to capitalise on.
For one thing, Indian batters have only touched the 3-digit mark in the home test only 4 times in the last 2 years (or 7 games). So what happened to the Indian batting juggernaut that once boasted of red ball behemoths like Kohli, Pujara, Vijay and Rahane?
For that, let’s first go far back to when Virat Kohli first took over the test captaincy and the new cycle began in 2015. Around the time, the team had a core that was all mid-20s to late 20s folks, with M Vijay being 31.
A squad in the 20s meant a lot of batters in the team would often dig down for the long hauls with the highest scores of 254 (Kohli), 199 (Rahul), 303 (Nair) or Pujara having a 525 ball vigil against Australia at Ranchi in 2017, a knock that would be the longest by an Indian, beating possibly his idol Rahul Dravid’s 495 ball effort at Rawalpindi in 2004 against Pakistan.
What would also be a regular staple in the team’s batting effort was their ability to just grind the opposition down across 100s of overs in the Indian heat often led by the said marathon named Cheteshwar.
Roughly 9 years later, the team is mainly comprised up of folks in their 30s. Of the 11 to take the field against England, only Jaiswal and Gill are the ones who are not in their 30s while Siraj and Iyer are set to turn 30 this year.
Add to that the fact that the schedule is much more crammed in 2024 than it was in 2015 along with the wear & tear on the field, and the after-effects of COVID off the field and you have got a team filled with a lot of injury prone and out of touch players. But honestly speaking, India is not the only team with an ageing squad. So are England and Australia. So what else?
Well for starters, once England beat India at Chennai in 2021, India decided to fall back on raging turners which meant the huge scores that India used to put regularly put up were no longer to be seen regularly even if in the middle of it, there were some decent pitches against New Zealand and Sri Lanka where India would go on to get the scores in and around 320-550.
But here is the bigger picture of the Indian batting in the post covid era:
- It has been 4 years and 2 months or 36 tests since an Indian batter last got a test double hundred, which was 243 by Mayank Agarwal against Bangladesh in Indore.
- During these 36 games in the 2020s, India has only seen 23 hundreds being scored as opposed to 52 hundreds in 36 games prior to that double ton.
- This set of 36 games (2016-2019) also saw 10 of those 52 hundreds being converted to double hundreds, including 1 triple hundred.
- Between 2015-2019, India had 74 100s being scored across 85 innings in 53 tests(2 washouts), while in the 2020s, Indian batters have only been able to get 22 100s across 35 tests.
- Between 2015-2019, there were 13 instances of Indian batters playing 300+ deliveries in an innings, but in the 2020s there have only been 2 such instances.
- Between 2015-2019, India had over 10 instances of the team batting more than 150 overs in an innings, down to just 1 in the 2020s.
- Between 2015-2019, India had as many as 6 batters scoring 1000 or more runs in tests averaging 40+ which has fallen to just 2(Pant and Sharma) in the 2020s.
- Between 2015-2019, India had as many as 5 batters (Kohli, Pujara, Rahane, Vijay and Dhawan) scoring 5 or more tons in the given period, a number which is yet to be achieved in the 2020s. The current most test tons in the 2020s for India is 4 by Rohit Sharma.
Statistically speaking, 2020-2024 has been a nightmare for India’s test batting. From the embarrassment of 36 all-out to the 0/6 collapse in Capetown and 78 all-out at Headingley. With big names like Gill, Kohli, Pujara, Rahane, Iyer, and Agarwal all averaging between 25 and 37.
As the 2nd test against the English juggernaut arrives, India has tried to influx the team with some young blood in Washington Sundar, Sarfaraz Khan, Sourabh Kumar and Rajat Patidar all of whom had a role to play in the ongoing India A team series against the England Lions where Sarfaraz scored a run-a-ball 160 while Sundar and Sourabh scored 57 and 77 respectively with Sourabh also getting 5fer with the ball in the 2nd innings as India A won the game by an innings and 16 runs.
With all this promising talent around the squad and more promising talent in guys like Shams Mulani, Devdutt Padikkal, N Jagadeesan and several others waiting in the wings, the hopes of a batting resurgence are high despite the current big names of the Indian test cricket in Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara possibly having seen their last days in Indian whites, Jadeja & Rahul being the subject of the medical team’s assessment every now and then along with Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma not hitting their straps like they used to in their heydays.
But what will actually happen in this era of T20 fatigue, unexpected injuries and post-COVID impact is still tough to predict.