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Small tweaks, big impact: What has changed from 2018, when India lost 1-4 in England, to now | Cricket News


Buoyed by the Lord's win, can Kohli's men sweep the Tests this time? TOI takes a look...
Not much has changed on paper in this Indian team since 2018. But at this time three years ago, by the end of the second Test, Virat Kohli's boys were 0-2 down and were looking down the barrel. This time, they are 1-0 up and had it not been for a final day washout in Nottingham, it could easily have been 2-0.
The team has shown the spunk that we have got used to seeing of late, especially after a brilliant come-from-behind win in Australia earlier this year.
Add to that the increasing vulnerability of the England team and the signs of a historic series win for India in England are clearly visible.
Here are the key differences between India's 2018 approach and the 2021 campaign....

In 2018, India started the series with M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order and by the third Test, it was KL Rahul and Dhawan. But nothing worked and the pressure was always on Virat Kohli to deliver. The captain did deliver, with 593 runs in five Tests, but there was hardly any support for him. This time around, Kohli hasn't been at his best, but the opening duo of Rahul and Rohit Sharma have been so consistent that the frailties of the middle-order have not come to the fore. In both Tests, they have neutralized the new ball.

In 2018, India sorely missed Jasprit Bumrah in favourable conditions in the first Test in Birmingham. In the second, they were all out for 107 in the first innings at Lord's, which left them with virtually no chance. This time, Bumrah has been on song from the first ball, pushing England to the backfoot.
Three years ago, India were playing with Hardik Pandya at No. 7 as the fourth pacer. He did play a huge role with a fifer in the Nottingham Test that India won, but he isn't in the class of Bumrah, Shami or Ishant. This time, the pace attack has been relentless. The new addition to the 2018 attack has been Mohammed Siraj, who has been brilliant with 11 wickets.


One of the most significant differences between 2018 and 2021 has been the contribution of the lower-order with the bat. In the first innings of the first Test, No. 9, 10 and 11 contributed 48 crucial runs. The cornerstone of the Lord's win was a brilliant, counter-attacking 89-run ninth-wicket stand between Bumrah and Shami on the final day. Over the years we have seen the Indian late order being sitting ducks against short-pitched bowling. The England attack thought they would scar Bumrah with some short stuff at Lord's, but the Gujarat boy went into a no-holds barred attack that completely demoralized the hosts.

There's absolutely no doubt that Ashwin is a better spinner than Jadeja away from home. But the Indian team management has decided to punt on Jadeja this time, something that they didn't do in 2018 when the left-armer played only at the Oval.
Kohli has been justified in his thinking that it's the pacers who are going to win him Tests in England, and they did take all 20 wickets at Lord's. For Kohli, the spinner is more of a restrictive option and like the wicketkeeper, needs to contribute with the bat.
Jadeja, with his limited-overs heroics, has grown a reputation of being a dangerous lower order batsman and he came up with a timely half-century in Nottingham. Seeing an Ashwin in his prime miss out on Tests is unfortunate, but the ploy, for the time being, is working.

Sunil Gavaskar was probably spot on when he said that the current England side is "a two-and-a-half member team", with Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson the only players who can threaten India. In 2018, there was one Ben Stokes who scored 200 runs and took 14 wickets in four Tests.
England needed Stokes as an inspirational figure but the all-rounder is suffering from mental health issues and is out indefinitely. Openers Sibley and Burns have been dismal. Bairstow and Buttler are not half as good in Tests. Stuart Broad and Archer are injured. To sum it up, India have got England in a spot, just as they would have preferred. If Gavaskar's prediction comes true, we could be in for a 4-0 win for Kohli's boys.

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August 22, 2021, 3:25 am

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