Virat Kohli in the spotlight: England v India fourth Test talking points

Series heads to The Oval shortly after the hosts levelled with a crushing win at Headingley

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A little over a week ago, most were agreed that India were on their way to being regarded as one of the great sides of Test cricket history, while England were a wreck.

How the crushing innings win by the home side at Headingley made a joke of those theories.

The two sides have headed to The Oval for the penultimate game of the series with the series poised at 1-1. Each have things the ponder before the start of play on Thursday.


Virat Kohli (37) has had more Test wins for India than anyone else. And Joe Root (27) – as of the triumph at Headingley – holds a similar record for England.

And yet each of them constantly feels like one defeat away from a crisis.

Lord’s was one of India’s finest ever successes, after which they were being lauded by many as an all-time great side.

An innings defeat later, and their captain’s hyper-aggressive method has found many critics.

Root has had a rare week to enjoy a triumph without hearing about the uselessness of his batting line up, brought about by the failings of English domestic cricket, with The Hundred being to root of all evil.

But give it a few days …

Virat Kohli

India captain Virat Kohli. AP

The fact Kohli remains without a Test century since November 2019 remains difficult to believe. Perhaps all the more stark, too, given the success of his opposite number this year.

Root’s sixth Test century of 2021, at Headingley, helped him up to No 1 in the world Test batting rankings. Kohli, in the meantime, has slipped down to sixth.

So, clearly one can cope with the burden of captaincy and the other cannot, right?

Hardly. Kohli averages over 56 as captain, compared to nearer 41 when not. And India have won 58 per cent of the games he has led in, opposed to 35 per cent of those he played in as one of the troops.

It is difficult to ascertain exactly what his problem is at the moment. But one thing does seem likely: if he does reach three-figures at The Oval, his celebration will be volcanic.

India’s bowling

Prasidh Krishna of Kolkata Knight Riders bowls during match 42 of season 13 of the Dream 11 Indian Premier League (IPL) between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Delhi Capitals at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi  in the United Arab Emirates on the 24th October 2020.  Photo by: Pankaj Nangia  / Sportzpics for BCCI

Even though India posted their seventh lowest score in a Test innings at Headingley, and just a few months after their worst ever – against Australia in Adelaide in December – it is actually their bowling which will most likely need a refit for The Oval.

Prasidh Krishna has been promoted from the reserves – he was travelling with the squad, anyway – for the fourth Test.

The lanky Kolkata Knight Riders fast bowler would seem a like-for-like replacement for Ishant Sharma.

Although he made a valuable contribution to the victory push in the second Test, Ishant looked to be flagging at Headingley. It makes sense that he would be stood down for this game.

Juggling the quicks

England's Chris Woakes. Getty Images

Given the three final Tests of the series have just two three-day breaks between them, juggling fast bowling resources seems a necessity for both sides.

England have been well versed in that already this summer, given they have been denied the services of Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Ben Stokes, Ollie Stone, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood at various points.

At least Woakes and Wood are back in contention for The Oval. The latter missed out at Headingley because of a shoulder industry suffered while fielding in the previous game.

The former, by contrast, has been beset by a number of different problems of late. This time last week he was stepping up his recuperation by playing in a second team game for his county side, with a 16-year-old wicketkeeper from Dubai taking catches off his bowling.

Updated: September 02, 2021, 3:02 AM