If you are No. 1, you have to win: Mohinder Amarnath
Mohinder Amarnath has some strong words to say about India's performance in England. (Getty Images)

Former India allrounder Mohinder Amarnath has stressed on the importance of the Indian cricket team living up to its potential of being the No. 1-ranked Test side in the world. In an aftermath of India’s 60-run loss to England in the fourth Test at Southampton, Amarnath wants the Indian team to pull their socks and play for pride at the Oval, the venue for the fifth Test starting Friday.

In his column for the Times of India on Thursday, Amarnath, Man of the Match in India’s 1983 World Cup final, mentioned how for the No. 1 side in the world, winning is of utmost importance, and that it will not be easy for India to regroup in the dead-rubber having already lost the series.

“The last Test at the Oval will be challenging. Once you have lost the series, a lot of things play on your mind,” Amarnath said. “Many have not scored runs and they’ll be under pressure with the home season looming. It’ll be a big test of character for them to come good and play for pride. But the series has been lost. It’s always about winning. If you’re No. 1, you have to win.”

Amarnath also issued a warning to India, alerting them not to take England lightly. The final Test will be Alastair Cook’s last international and the team will be eager to give the country’s leading run-scorer in Tests a triumphant farewell. Couple that with India’s vulnerability against Moeen Ali’s off-spin and the equation becomes even more challenging.

“The Oval has a good batting pitch. But then, again, it’s a fresh game and England will come hard at India. The hosts have played their part well especially Moeen Ali. His selection was a calculated risk that paid off. He didn’t do anything different or try out anything new, he just kept bowling one length and kept varying his pace and flight. That was the critical difference between Ashwin and him,” said Amarnath.

The pattern of India’s defeat at Southampton was a familiar one. Chasing 246, one of those iffy-looking targets, India seemed well placed at 123/3 with captain Virat Kohli and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane looking set. But Kohli’s dismissal for 58 triggered a collapse and India were all out for 184. Amarnath cited lack of appropriate technique as a prime reason for India’s debacle.

“Technique was probably why the batting let us down. A lot of guys got starts but just could not convert because of lack of application, temperament, and rhythm. Virat has shown this right through the series. Of course, one can say the English batsmen also didn’t score runs, but they have won the series,” Amarnath, who played 69 Tests and 85 ODIs for India, said.

“It wasn’t like India did not have opportunities. The bowlers did a fantastic job, especially the pacers who bowled their hearts out. At the end of the day, it was the Indian batting that was not up to scratch. Also, we missed a regular No.6. You cannot go in with five batsmen and an all-rounder, especially in England. They could be very handy in the subcontinent, but overseas they get exposed.”

With England showing frailties of their own, this was considered India’s best chance of winning a series in England, but another series loss means they’ve now gone 10 years without it. India last beat England in their country in 2007 when Rahul Dravid led the side to a 1-0 win in a three-Test series.

India had gone to England with high hopes of winning the series. But that was not to be. It was the batting that let them down and what this showed was that they are not great players of the moving ball. Apart from Virat, and, of course, Rahane and Pujara, none of the others looked comfortable even though some of them did get runs.

“India had gone to England with high hopes of winning the series. But that was not to be. It was the batting that let them down and what this showed was that they are not great players of the moving ball. Apart from Virat, and, of course, Rahane and Pujara, none of the others looked comfortable even though some of them did get runs,” he said.