Anil Kumble wants his tail-enders' to step up and take more responsibility with the bat in Test matches © Getty Images
Anil Kumble wants his tail-enders’ to step up and take more responsibility with the bat in Test matches © Getty Images

The preparatory camp for Team India, ahead of their tour to West Indies where they play a four-match Test series, is in full swing. Head coach of the team, Anil Kumble, has taken over his role and is keeping an eye on his players before the series begins. Recently, he was seen giving batting practice to the Indian bowlers, like Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. Now this was a pleasant surprise as the trio is known for its bowling and not batting. So does this mean their job is only to bowl? Definitely not. Kudos to Kumble for thinking out of the box and giving the bowlers some time off their main duty and giving them some time to groom their batting skills. It is a known fact that the runs scored by tail-enders are considered as bonus runs and so it is a master stroke by the former legendary spinner to strengthen his batting line-up.  ALSO READ: Photo: Anil Kumble, Sanjay Bangar training Jayant Yadav and Shahbaz Nadeem

In modern-day cricket, things have changed drastically. Teams like England and Australia do well in the longer format of the game as they not only have the bowlers and batsmen to deliver when the chips are down, but also have a trusted tail which can deliver when required. India have been the regular victims of giving valuable runs to the tail-enders, which changes the crux of the game. During India’s tour of England (2014), things were in favour of India in the first Test of the five-match series. Scoring 457 in their first innings, India had England 298 for 9 and a chance to press for a win.

Instances where India gave away valuable runs to the tail-enders’!

What happened after that was remarkable for the hosts. The last wicket partnership between James Anderson and Joe Root stretched to a mammoth 198 runs and helped England take a lead of 39 runs. This was a great escape for the hosts but a big jolt to India who could have easily won the match. The match ended in a draw, in which India had to struggle in the end, but it was a psychological victory for the hosts. Though India won the next match at Lord’s but lost the remaining matches by a whopping margin. Had India won the first match, they would not have surrendered so helplessly in the last few matches.

This was not the only such incident when they lost the plot for an overseas Test win. In their tour to Australia in 2011, India had Australia on the backfoot in the first Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Giving a lead of 51 runs in the first innings, the visitors still had the match in their hands when Australia were tottering at 166 for 8 with a total lead of 217. In the end, the hosts added another valuable 74 runs which meant India were chasing 291 and they lost by 122 runs. It was, thus, another incident when they were stopped by some smart batting by the tail and eventually it dented their chance to register a win aboard. ALSO READ:Sharma: Time to make or break in Test cricket

On their tour Down Under in 2014-15, India again found themselves in a similar position. In the second Test at Brisbane, making 408 in the first outing, MS Dhoni and co. had the Australians on the mat at 247 for 6. They had a chance to take a lead of 70 odd runs, at least, but ended giving a lead of 97 runs. Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc played well along side Steve Smith and the final result  saw Team India losing the match. Sure, India have not always been on the receiving end of giving bonus runs to the opponents. During Australia’s tour of India in 2008, Ishant and VVS Laxman added 81 runs to win the match by a solitary wicket in Mohali. In the first Test of the 2014 series, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami also added 121 runs to take the team total over 450. Sadly, there are very few such instances but several such when the team has been on the receiving end of the hammering from the lower-order of the other teams.

What is the strategy behind this move?

Stuart Broad, Anderson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and even Tim Southee of New Zealand have stood the test of time in the last decade or so and added buck load of runs for the team which have titled the match in their team’s favour. Batting with the lower-order is a talent for the last recognised batsmen but the bowlers, or tail-enders, should also be given a pat on their back for staying for the team and bating according to the situation. As much as bowlers should dismiss the tail quickly, bowlers should also try to sweat it out in the nets with the willow. Yadav’s average is 7.78 in Tests whereas Ishant and Shami are not behind with a paltry average of 8.87 and 12.76. No one expects them to get their average close to the 30s or 40s but keeping it close to the 20s will also benefit the team. ALSO READ:India in West Indies 2016: The fast bowling conundrum

The new head coach, Kumble was also another batsman who used to bat in the lower order. He was among the tail-enders for India during his playing days and has a ton to his name, that too in England. He surely knows what difference it makes to the team when the tail can also bat with the top or middle order.  This should have been implemented by the team long back but it is never too late. His move shows his thinking and understanding of the game in the modern era. Australia, England and South Africa have this added advantage under their belt and he wants his team to emulate the same thing. Probably this was also mentioned by him in his much talked about presentation in the run-up to becoming the coach.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)