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Can England learn a lesson from Hameed?

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Haseeb_Hameed_England_cricketThe English team has gone from Rajkot to Vishakhapatnam to Mohali to Mumbai. One thing which can be said for them is that the manner in which they fought off India and held them to a draw at Rajkot spoke volumes about the abilities of the current team. It showed spirited performances that could, hopefully, be depended on in the future despite being a modestly experienced unit under Cook.

The combined experience of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes - current batting regulars in the English side - stands at 152 Tests, with each player featuring in 52, 37, 36 and 31 Tests respectively. Captain Cook alone, with one ton under his belt this series, has represented England in 139 Tests himself, with enough classy performances to prompt a knock on the doors of 'Test match greatness'.

Kohli's Test regulars, on the other hand, Rahane, with 32 Tests, Pujara with 42 and Ashwin with 43, have dealt the decisive blow to England's hopes of a drawn series. We haven't seen anything special from Ajinkya Rahane thus far, otherwise a dependable batsman. Ravindra Jadeja, though, has made giant strides toward becoming the other all rounder who can join forces with Ashwin the batsman.

So what should we draw from this?

Should India's success be attributed solely to Kohli's all-weather Test specialists? Does it mean that India were able to exert pressure over England solely on the merit of Kohli, Pujara and Ashwin having played more individual Tests than Root, Ali, Bairstow and Stokes?

No.

Experience counts. Even more so, when you're playing at home. The hosts hold an extra advantage of being familiar with the conditions. But if that were the alone excuse for India's win and England’s collapse, how come India's batsmen slipped at Vizag and (almost) at Mohali, until Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant Yadav took charge?

England can learn a thing or two from Haseeb Hameed's fighting abilities

India experienced batting collapses; at Vizag, 22-2 in 1st innings followed by 40-3 in the 2nd, and 204-7 at Mohali. These were enough to thrust the responsibility on the lower middle order, which weaved an unexpected but miraculous escape and made all the difference. That is precisely where the English slipped, despite having demonstrated brilliantly that they were no pushovers at Rajkot.

We saw glorious hundreds from Root, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes, the next 'Freddie Flintoff'. Cook joined the bandwagon with a brilliant 2nd innings ton. But what England needs, more than another Flintoff, is a continued fight from blokes like Haseeb Hameed, all of 19 years old, who demonstrated right from the start at Rajkot - 31 off 82 and 82 off 177 - that it takes more than dependence on 'experience' to account for the big difference, the decisive edge.

Haseeb Hameed kept fighting when others gave in

With 219 runs in a career that has only just begun, and has in fact experienced its first bout with injury, makes Hameed seem like just another mortal. His heroics in Mohali, where he made 59 off 156 with an injured finger, showed his willingness to bat when the jig is up, adding to the tally from his maiden tour where he already impressed with 82 off 177 at Rajkot.

While his seniors were collapsing around him, despite their experience, Haseeb's single-minded resolve to play classic Test cricket by battling on is an important lesson for Cook and company to learn.

So what went missing?

Test cricket is still as much about plundering runs quickly as it is about 'eating up' deliveries, even if the latter comes at the back of an inevitable defeat. This was proven with subdued awe by this relatively less known youngster.

Of the 6 innings Haseeb played, he opened in 5 of them. He lent a solidity at the top of the order supporting Cook, which at this time means the world to England's. No other batsman apart from Joe Root has come to display the grit and fight, albeit sporadically. Cook himself has struggled since his fluent 2nd innings century at Rajkot. Debut centurion Jennings managed a golden duck in his second innings.

In this context, when England’s backs were up against the wall at Mohali, and previously at Vizag, Haseeb Hameed's stay on the crease - 177 and 82 balls at Rajkot, 50 and 144 balls at Vizag and his epic 155 ball vigil during the 4th innings at Mohali - proves that you need to battle it out in Test cricket when it comes to survival.

Hameed was fighting alone as Ashwin, Jadeja, Shami and Kohli were tightening the noose around England's neck.

Here's the lesson, England

It isn't over until it's over. This is the best lesson that both Root (78 runs in the second innings from over 4 hours on the pitch) and Bairstow (redeeming himself with 89 in the first innings) proved. Hameed's knock of 59 - conjured up in the absence of any hope for survival - reduced the sting of defeat in England's crushing loss.

 

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