When India came to England in June earlier this year for a more-than-ten-weeks-long tour, the visiting captain Virat Kohli was under a lot of scrutiny due to his poor showing in the country four years ago. The attention on Kohli was so much that there was hardly any focus on the rest of the Indian batting.
However, after the heartbreaking loss against England in the first Test, the above narrative has been turned around its head. Kohli silenced all his critics by hitting a scintillating 149 in the first innings and a fighting 51 in the second. The rest of the Indian players scored a combined 214 runs in the game fuelling the debate that India are now over-reliant on Kohli as far as winning games is concerned.
It would be a fallacy to believe that the Indian batting has taken a nosedive all of a sudden. The dependence on Kohli has been around for quite some time now, reflected in the fact that the skipper has scored more than 30% of his team's runs in all the Tests he has played in 2018.
Be it in South Africa earlier this year or this week's Edgbaston Test, the Delhi-born batsman has been, more often than not, found shouldering his team's batting on his own in the past few months. This phenomenon doesn't augur well for India and certainly not for the No. 1 ranked team which wants to maintain its grip on the top spot.
In South Africa for instance, Kohli emerged as the highest run scorer of the series on either side with 286 runs including a century in three matches. However, the next Indian on the list was Hardik Pandya with just 119 runs which included 93 runs in a single innings. None of the specialist batsmen averaged more than 20 on the tour which shows the lack of support for the skipper from the other end.
The story in Edgbaston this week was not much different as can be seen from the statistic above. Even though the Indian bowlers keep picking up wickets and bringing India into the match on various occasions, the lack of application from the Indian batsmen erases any advantage that the team might have, leading to losing the match from winning situations. In Cape Town in January, a target of 205 proved too much for the visitors while 194 in Birmingham ended up 31 runs more than what India's sorry batting could muster in the end.
Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane - none of them could cross 26 runs at Edgbaston which is appalling, especially if one considers that Kohli scored 200 runs on the same pitch in the same conditions. This is not to say that these players have become bad batsmen overnight but the biggest reason for their dismal batting has to be the lack of intent and spend time at the crease.
Vijay, who has for long been India's first-choice opener seems to have been inflicted by the hanging-your-bat-outside-off-stump syndrome. The same is the case with Rahane who got out twice in the match to lazy shots which he could have avoided nine times out of ten. In Vijay's case though it is more puzzling as he was once famous for being a great judge of where his off-stump lies and so was adept at leaving the balls outside his off stump.
Dhawan on the other hand just doesn't seem to be learning from his past mistakes and it was mystifying to see him playing cross-batted shots against the moving ball. Rahul, who was brought in the place of Cheteshwar Pujara, was the victim of an attacking mindset bred by years of IPL and needs to learn quickly if he wants a long and successful Test career.
Adding Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya's indifferent form with the bat to the already struggling lineup, we realise that these are not great signs for any great Test team. More importantly, it reminds us of the Indian team during the most part of the '90s when the team's fortunes were tied to the form of their star batsman Sachin Tendulkar. Oppositions in those days often used to have a single motto - remove Sachin, win the match.
Now we all know how "great" the results were for visiting Indian teams during those times. The past teaches us that we should not be over-reliant on one player in a team sport. The current Indian team looks like it's going down a dangerous slippery road and has to keep its own history in mind if it desires to win more matches and series abroad. The Lord's Test starts in five days from now. It's difficult to fathom how these batsmen can do a turnaround in such a short time. Though there is one guy they could look to for answers as he showed it with the bat in Edgbaston. How the likes of Vijay and Rahane deal with the crisis will determine the course of not just the England series but also India's Test future. Even Kohli would agree that the task is far too big for just one man.