The last time India toured England, in 2014 they managed to win a test match at Lords. This was great, a wonderful highlight of the summer. The first test of the series, surely this was to be a turnaround from the abysmal previous tour in 2011. Indeed, before 2011 India hadn’t lost a test series to England since 1996, perhaps the 2014 summer would be a return to form.
They went on to lose three of the next four test matches in the series.
Now, this was still a vast improvement on the last time they made the trip from the subcontinent, having been whitewashed 4-0 in embarrassing fashion. This included England scoring 700 runs at Edgbaston, winning the final match by an innings and 242 runs. The one silver lining in that cloudy Indian tour was Rahul Dravid.
In one of his greatest touring performances, Dravid scored 461 runs in the four test matches, at an average of 76.83. He accounted for over 26% of India’s runs, and this was when he was forced to open twice in the series thanks to injuries. But why did Dravid usually perform so well when he played in for India in England? The last time ‘The Wall’ played a test series in England when not captaining he racked up 602 runs. This was in 2002, two summers after he had played his first season of county cricket in England. He did have one poor series with the bat in 2007 when he captained the Test side, but his next series showed his return to form in red ball cricket.
Indian test cricketers in the County Championship is quite the rarity these days. One might even call them an endangered species. There is currently one Indian player in the test team that is playing county cricket, and his name is Cheteswar Pujara. A man who has been pinned as a ‘test specialist’ by his national selection board. Where are the rest of the Indian batsman you might ask? Playing in the IPL.
The reason Pujara has been able to play for Nottinghamshire this summer is because he was the only Indian test player to go unselected in the 2017 IPL auction. Because the BCCI will not allow an Indian player to play abroad, when they could be representing their IPL franchise. Whilst this seems like a great strategy for the BCCI and their ultimately entertainment focused product, the IPL; it seems to be hampering the overall future of Indian test cricket.
Earlier this year the Indian captain, Virat Kohli, expressed interest in playing a stint of county cricket before India next tour England. Whilst this sounds like the exact kind of attitude that needs to be encouraged by Indian cricket, it would be some sort of miracle if Kohli does actually end up playing in the County Championship. One of the biggest draws for the IPL’s domestic and international audience, it is highly unlikely that Kohli’s franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore will release him for a single, let alone multiple, game when he will not be representing India. The BCCI’s current policy on players playing outside of the T20 competition almost guarantees the franchise will get their way. But it’s nice to imagine a world where Joe Root and Virat Kohli could bat in the same lineup.
Rahul Dravid scored 1221 runs from 16 first class matches playing for Kent in the summer of ’00, at an average of 55.50 including 2 hundreds and 8 fifties. After this season he went on to score 1,189 runs in his next three tours to England. When India next tour in 2018, it stands to reason that only one batsman will be adequately prepared to consistently perform well against the English seam attack, and his name is Cheteswar Pujara.
All because they think he can’t play T20 cricket.
Article by Dhiren Naidu