Alastair Cook commented that Sharma and India were confused by England’s optimistic performance, using the phrase ‘all at sea’.
According to Alastair Cook, Rohit Sharma, the captain of India, seemed clueless about how to respond to England’s aggressive performance in the first Test. This left the players feeling lost and unsure of who to turn to or look up to, ultimately leading to their unexpected 28-run loss.
Before becoming the face of TNT Sports’ cricket coverage, Cook served as captain for England in 59 Tests. This is second only to Joe Root’s record for most Tests played as captain. One of Cook’s notable achievements as captain was leading England to a series win in India in 2012, which remains the most recent victory by a touring team. Reflecting on this accomplishment, Cook described it as one of the greatest wins away from home, especially given the difficult position the team was in at the end of the second day of the opening Test.
On day two, they were given a rare opportunity to make a shot towards the end of the game. This type of situation is not often seen in cricket games, so it allowed them to play with a sense of freedom.
Before the series, I mentioned how fascinating it would be to witness how India handles the aggressive approach towards spin from the England batsmen. We were aware that this would occur and as a captain, it can be challenging because there may not be many options available.
On the third day, they were at a loss and unsure of their next steps. This is the impact of England’s Bazball approach. Without Virat Kohli, their middle-order and fielding were inexperienced, causing confusion on who to turn to for guidance. They were uncertain of how to successfully chase in the fourth inning or how to handle England’s aggressive play. They seemed lost and disorganized.
Cook mentioned that Sharma was not quick enough to respond to England’s strategies, especially during Ollie Pope’s impressive 196 runs on the third and fourth days. He explained that India’s team is used to winning and may have thought that the situation would not last for long. Cook also noted that Sharma did not make any changes to the field for a while, even though Pope kept using the reverse sweep. This was because Sharma believed that the statistics showed that playing a risky shot against top-class bowling was more likely to benefit the bowlers.
According to Cook, the English batters were performing exceptionally, but eventually they made a mistake. They missed their opportunity due to their hesitation. It will be interesting to see how India responds. It is possible that England’s strong play has forced India to change their tactics and become more defensive in their field placements. This could potentially remove the traditional ways of getting out to spin, such as being caught by the bat or silly point or playing defensively, as England may have fewer fielders close to the bat.
In 2012, the top wicket-takers for England were Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, both spinners who had played 46 and 42 Test matches, respectively. Aside from Jack Leach, who will not be playing in the second Test, the specialist spinners on this tour have less experience: Tom Hartley debuted in Hyderabad, Rehan Ahmed has only played two Test matches, and Shoaib Bashir has not played any.
Cook praised Monty and Swanny for their exceptional performance during the series, noting that they outperformed the Indian spinners by a significant margin. He also mentioned that it was effortless to captain the team with them on the field, as he could simply hand them the ball.
Cook acknowledged that if India had been scoring easily against Hartley on the first day, he likely would have replaced him from the attack. However, he was impressed by the young bowler’s determination as he bounced back to claim seven wickets in the second innings. Cook pointed out that it is impossible to say what would have happened if Hartley had been taken out of the attack, but it is clear that he possesses the mental strength and resilience to perform under pressure. Cook also noted that this was not solely due to Stokes’ leadership, but rather Hartley’s own mental fortitude and determination to succeed.
“He deserves a lot of credit for his mental fortitude in dealing with the pressure and still performing exceptionally. England may have discovered a cricketer who thrives in high-pressure situations, which is ultimately what Test cricket demands.”