In the second round of the third Test, with Ben Stokes out of the leg ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin, it was the 11th time that the English all-rounder has fallen prey to the Indian. Faster delivery caught Stokes and he did not review the referee’s decision on the field. He looked defeated.
A total of 146 races in six rounds in the series so far does not suit Stokes’ stature as the world’s best allrounder. He started well, with 82 in the opening heats of the first Test. On benign ground, however, he was playing without pressure. Joe Root and Dom Sibley had already laid the groundwork for a grand total. Stokes has scored 7, 18, 8, 6 and 25 since. As the ball began to spin, he collapsed.
Stokes’ poor form is a big reason England failed to counter India’s rotational attack on the rotating grounds. In a series where he was supposed to be Joe Root’s biggest support at bat, the 29-year-old let his team down. England’s rotation policy made matters worse. Stokes has already played tests in India. He is a regular in the Indian Premier League and the conditions here are not unfamiliar to him. Its failure turned England into a one-man batting unit. Devoid of support, Root’s stick also slipped after its double century in the first Test.
Not a happy hunting ground
As of August 2019, Stokes has scored 1,422 races in 18 tests, including four centuries. His 135 steps against Australia in Leeds will be remembered for a long time. He dominated the West Indies last season before taking compassionate leave to be with his ailing father. However, Stokes’ record in India has been disappointing. His batting average here is 32, compared to his career average of 37, while his bowling average in this part of the world is 46, up from 31 on his career average.
“Stokes is obviously one of the best players, who has delivered many times. But to be the No. 1 in the world, a player has to be successful against all types of bowling under different conditions, ”said former Pakistani captain Asif Iqbal. He described England’s selection flaws which he said affected the performance of players like Stokes.
Is Stokes’ problem with rotary turners technical? Iqbal disagreed. “Some bowlers become bogeys for some batsmen, and Ashwin has become Stokes’ bogey bowler, but the term ‘technical’ is overused by coaches. Technique is what suits a drummer to adapt to certain conditions, not what the coaching book says. Ashwin has gained a psychological advantage over Stokes, but the latter is good enough to overcome that. Stokes has reached a level where he knows what technical adjustments he needs to make to counter the spin on the turners. He doesn’t need coaching for this. The problem with Stokes is that he doesn’t play his natural game. Iqbal told The Indian Express.
Neither approach works
On a rank turner at Chepauk in the second test, Stokes trusted his defense. He was ready to bide his time in the middle, as his shots would attest – 18 out of 34 balls and 8 out of 51 balls. He was fired by a beauty Ashwin in the first inning, while the southpaw grew overly suspicious in the second. In Ahmedabad also, he tried to graft himself from the first rounds. Three unsuccessful attempts later, Stokes decided to pitch his bat at almost everything on the second search.
“Stokes’ stick is full of flair and, at the moment, flair is lacking in his game. England already have three-four wickets down for very little when he gets into the crease and he restricts his natural game, thinking that he will be criticized if he goes out playing with flair. This is due to England’s ridiculous rotation policy, which prevents them from playing with a sedentary team. The biggest flaw in English cricket right now is this laughable rotation policy, which affects the pace of their players, ”Iqbal said.
“Top drummers find it hard to get into the groove because there is no continuity. Jonny Bairstow performed well in Sri Lanka before resting for the first two tests in India. On his return, he put on a pair. A batsman can go out for nothing in both innings, but under difficult conditions Bairstow had to start all over again. And since the top order doesn’t score points, England’s middle order, a batsman like Stokes, suffered from the negative runoff. Teams are built not by rotation but by continuity. “
Rotation a problem
With England scheduled to compete in 17 tests this year, its cricket hierarchy has focused on workload and managing mental fatigue during the Covid era, when players operate under strict biosecure protocols.
“Test cricket is the pinnacle. Don’t think that players would like to miss a test to rest. England, for the moment, do not have the strength of the bench to replace the players they rely on. To rotate, you need to have a bench force like India. “
The former Pakistani skipper was clear that more than Motera’s pitch, poor English cricketer was the reason for his loss in the third test.
“On the wrong wickets, you get caught around the bat, you don’t go out bowling or LBW. Many drummers have engaged in drop shipments. The cricket test is about mastering different conditions, which England failed to do.