India vs England | Takeaways : Virat Kohli’s Moeen Ali issue and Jos Buttler’s need for batting promotion

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India vs England | Takeaways : Virat Kohli’s Moeen Ali issue and Jos Buttler’s need for batting promotion

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Bastab K Parida


After Joe Root's masterclass that was the cornerstone of England’s of 322/7, their bowlers impressed to shut down India's batting and present the hosts an 86-run win. In the loss, Virat Kohli’s failure to tackle Moeen Ali’s gullies and middle-order’s mess-up made things further gloomy for India.

Are England just wasting Jos Buttler

If any batsman in the modern-day cricket comes close to AB de Villiers with the bat, it is Jos Buttler. While the South African refined the innovation and aggression in batting which became the hallmark of the current generation, Buttler adapted all of them in his batting to be a modern-day limited-overs superstar. Both of them use their feet to great effect to score all around the ground, and there is no area which can be considered safe given the duo's spectacular array of shots. 

Despite the technical similarities between the men from two different parts of the planet, they have actually performed different roles for their team. While the South African batted 131 times at No.4 in the ODI cricket, most of Buttler’s innings have come at No.6. After England revolutionised their ODI batting, Buttler foumd himself being usedu as a floating finisher. However, when given a chance to bat at No. 4, the Somerset-born batsman averages an incredible 56.33 as compared to his average of 40.20 at No. 5, 37.56 at No.6, and 40.08 at No.7. The numbers make it evident that when Buttler bats at full throttle, he can make more contributions to the team without compromising anything and batting in at No. 6 reduces his impact in the game.

The move has a two fold impact on English cricket because it will allow Eoin Morgan to bat as a finisher. Since England’s tour of India in January 2017, only Rohit Sharma scores more quickly than the English skipper at the death in ODIs (considering a minimum of 50 balls). So it makes more sense that if Buttler bats higher up the order, Morgan can use himself as the destructive finisher and that will add more balance to the team. 

Joe Root gives England a much needed lift

Before the Lord's match, Indian batsmen had three centuries to their name on the tour, but an English batsman was yet to reach the landmark. Their batsman's confidence took a severe beating and it needed one special innings from someone to raise that level. And here came, Joe Root, under scrutiny for his limited-overs batting credentials, and immediately, decided to take one for the team. 

In the first T20 at Old Trafford, Joe Root had stretched himself forward but eventually beaten by the turn and bounce, and MS Dhoni was too good a wicket-keeper to miss out on the chance. It was a premeditated move and against Kuldeep Yadav that is never advisable. In the first ODI in Nottingham, Root premeditated once again as he decided to stay back in his crease thinking Kuldeep would bowl the googly. However, the left-arm wrist-spinner bowled a normal leg-break pitched outside off and as a result, Root failed to move and was caught plumb in front. However, today, Root didn’t play any premeditated shot and played the ball to its merit. 

Then, Kuldeep, to whom Root got out twice in three balls before this match, tried unleashing his googlies to Root. But the English Test skipper’s approach was more conventional by then - rotating the strike, dispatching the bad balls and trying hard not to make the same mistake of playing him with a straight bat. Moreover, he decided to wait for the balls before making any premeditated shots. His century today was not just a classic demonstration of how to bat your kryptonite out easily, but also a huge morale booster for the other batsmen going forward because it is a well set roadmap for the others to follow.

Virat Kohli’s apparent issues against off-spin resurface again

When it comes to run-chases, Virat Kohli is the undisputed star in ODI cricket and the ease with which he does that just make experts sit up and savour the history being created right before their eyes. His numbers against all types of bowling is just an indication of how dangerous he can be. However, if there is one glitch that the Indian skipper would really have wanted to settle it was his recent issues against off-spinners and especially, against Moeen Ali

For all his struggle in the Test cricket, Moeen Ali was impressive in the recent limited-overs series against Australia, in which he picked up 13 wickets at an average of 20.38 and an economy rate of 5.93 across the six matches (five ODIs, one T20I). He is also one of the few players to have troubled Kohli and has taken his wicket five times across all formats (twice in Tests, twice in ODIs and once in T20Is). The manner in which Kohli plays England’s off-spinner was going to be an important factor in the series, but as it turned out, Kohli got out to two spinners in consecutive succession - to Adil Rashid in the first ODI in Trent Bridge and today to Ali. The English offie basically bowls flat and from a top angle, but when he drifted the ball a bit more, Kohli couldn’t pick it up as easily. As a result, he was beaten more than he would have liked and eventually lost his wicket to him.

India’s middle order concerns - a puzzle to solve

To India’s credit, they have three top-order batsmen who are as good as any limited-overs batsmen of the generation and have the ability to blow any bowlers reputations to smithereens. Because of that, they have been successful in getting a good start to their batting, but as we saw today, India failed to carry on the same momentum if the opposition cracks the top-order. On paper, a middle order of KL Rahul, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, and Hardik Pandya would seem as good options, but in reality, no one is being able to get off the blocks instantly. 

Dhoni, who had made it a fashion of sitting deep in his crease and hitting bowlers for sixes with his supremely authentic bottom hand, took a lot of balls to get into the zone and then got out by playing a non-powerful stroke, which invariably ended up in Ben Stokes’ hands near the boundary ropes. Although KL Rahul managed to find his groove in the first T20I in Manchester, he has been way too inconsistent after that, much to the dismay of Team India. And therein lies India’s problem. 

Considering the World Cup in England is less than a year away, India can consider this issue seriously if they fancy their chance to win the cup that they last won in 2011. There is still time in hand and the middle-order needs to use this as an opportunity to stand apart.

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