Virat Kohli is yet to win a Test as India captain © AFP
Virat Kohli is yet to win a Test as India captain © AFP

“Well begun is half done,” Aristotle had once said, and the Indian cricket team will not do badly if they get this impregnated into their minds. As they capitulated in an abject manner on the fourth morning at Galle, there was a sense of déjà vu for many people who have followed Indian cricket for some time now. This is now becoming a pattern for India, and as the Sri Lankan players carried around Kumar Sangakkara to bid farewell to Galle, India were back in the hut rueing yet another missed chance of winning an overseas Test. Nikhil Popat explains how India have lacked the finishing touch and how can they improve on it.

As players walked back for the lunch break on Day Four of the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle, there was a sense of anguish, a sense of anger, which was more of ‘oh, not again’ more than the failure on the particular day. India were 78 for 7 chasing 176 and were looking down and out in a Test they should have won by Tea on Day Three in the worst case scenario. Bbut what followed was something the Indian cricket fans would feel they have seen before. India lost the game by 63 runs as Rangana Herath ran through the line-up, taking 7 for 47; India were bowled out for 112 and conceded a 0-1 lead to Sri Lanka after dominating the game for the most part. Read: India vs Sri Lanka 2015, 1st Test at Galle: Team selection to blame for India’s loss

India had lost the toss; they bowled the home side out for 183, got a lead of 192 and had the hosts in tatters at 95 for 5. Agreed that both Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne were aided by glaring umpiring errors, but none of it count for leaking as many as 155 runs in a session of 28 overs. From being in danger of losing by an innings, Sri Lanka went on to win the game by taking a lead of 175, with Chandimal scoring an unbeaten 162. The Indian Test captain, Virat Kohli, had been talking about taking 20 Test wickets to win the game but here, after taking 15 wickets without breaking enough sweat, they were made to grind to take the remaining five wickets. Read: BCCI must adopt DRS after umpiring blunders marr 1st Test against Sri Lanka at Galle

It summed up how India have played overseas since the tour to South Africa in 2013. India have been in positions of strength in most matches but have lacked the killer blow to finish the game. Let’s revisit some of the examples of how India have messed up chances of an overseas Test win by not being consistent enough.

When India toured South Africa, there was worry about how the young Indian batting line-up would fare but India were sitting pretty in the first Test, after centuries from Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. Going into the final day of the Test, South Africa were 138 for 2. India needed eight more wickets while South Africa were chasing a target of 458 runs. India did the hard part and had the host struggling at 197 for four and things looked rosy for India but then came the pair of Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, who scored tons to take the game away from India. It was only due to the run-out of du Plessis by Ajinkya Rahane that India hung on to a draw as South Africa went for safety than a win. Read: India’s batsmen show positive signs, but need to learn how to fire collectively

India then toured New Zealand.In the first Test, India, often touted as poor travelers, conceded a lead of 301 but came back superbly in the game by bowling out the hosts for 105. India, chasing 407, were in a good position when Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli were batting well with the score at 222 for 2 but India quickly collapsed from there to be reduced to 270 for six, and despite the spirited efforts from the then Test skipper MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, India failed to chase down the score and lost by 40 runs.

India, though, continued to dominate New Zealand in the second Test. When Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling got together in the second innings, New Zealand, who were trailing India by 246 runs, were reduced to 94 for 5. India may have fancied a three-day finish but then India dropped the intensity, catches went down and New Zealand drew the Test, amassing 680 runs. India were set a target of 435 runs then but they had very little chance to win and had to settle for a draw. Another chance went missing and India lost another series.

One wondered what stopped India from concentrating even more when they had the game in their grasp. The Test team failed to be consistent and India saw similar issues when they toured Australia in 2015. India lost the Adelaide Test, after needing 120 runs in a session with eight wickets in hand. Kohli scored twin hundreds but got out to what one would term as an ‘unforced error’, and India went down the drain. Read: VVS LAXMAN SAYS: Learning experience for both India and Sri Lanka

India would have hoped that they do better and at Brisbane, India had Australia in trouble at 247 for 6 after scoring 408 in the first innings. It looked as if, finally, India might get a huge lead and end their drought of wins in Australia. But then arrived a needless chirp from Rohit Sharma and that spurred Mitchell Johnson on as he hit a 93-ball 88. Australia scored 505, took a lead, and India was beaten by four wickets as Australia chased 130.

It is becoming a worrying pattern for India and the loss at Galle must hurt the most: India had been in that situation before with a new skipper in charge of them but things went ina similar direction as Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh were not handled properly and India lost after dominating the Test for a considerable time. Read: What Virat Kohli’s India can realistically achieve

Kohli is just four Tests old as a captain; he is yet to win a game and he’s been part of the team for all those losses before. The pattern must hurt him and team India as a unit. This is a new unit and they must be given time, but losing the game from dominant positions has become a habit for India and the new captain will have to get rid of the jinx as soon as possible.

(Nikhil Popat is a diehard cricket enthusiast and a PotterHead till the end of time. He can be followed on Twitter @CricCrazyNIKS)