Joe Root has said England’s rest and rotation policy could rumble on through to next winter’s Ashes series and urged the team management and his players to learn key lessons from the heavy defeat suffered in India.
After his side lost the fourth Test in Ahmedabad by an innings and 25 runs to complete a 3-1 loss, the England captain was honest enough to admit they had simply been “out-skilled” by superior opponents in their home conditions.
Still, there was a hint of frustration at multi-format players Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran and Mark Wood missing chunks of the series due to fears about burnout in the bubble during a fixture-laden 12 months ahead.
“It’s important we learn lessons for next time around,” Root said, “but it was done with the best interests of the England team and the three formats.
“It’s not an ideal, perfect scenario. As a captain you want all your players available for selection as often as possible and that’s not been the case on this tour. But we’ve got to get past the stage of playing people until they fall over.”
Asked if he could see England making four changes to a winning side in Australia, as occurred after the 227-run victory in the first Test when Buttler flew home and Jimmy Anderson was rested, Root said: “If we are in a bubble environment in Australia then there will be an element of this that will carry over.”
The issue, perhaps summed up by Moeen’s departure after taking eight wickets in the second Test, and Bairstow’s three ducks in four innings upon returning from his allotted break, should not mask the overall shortcomings.
Root’s 794 runs in the six Tests in Sri Lanka and India accounted for a third of England’s overall tally off the bat, while Buttler, who flew home after the win in Chennai, was the only other batsman to average above 40. The 205 mustered on day one of the fourth Test was their second-highest total on the India leg.
“The guys have to embrace what has happened, understand it and be realistic,” said Root, who did not pass 50 after his 218 in the first Test.
“We would be stupid to come away from this trip and say: ‘It was India, it was extreme conditions, it is impossible to bat.’ That is the wrong attitude. The most important thing is to know there are things we can get better at. Yes, they have world‑class spinners, but we can be better.”
Virat Kohli, India’s captain, credited the return of his side’s intensity after their defeat in the first Test, before heaping praise on top-scorer Rohit Sharma for his series-changing 161 in the second and Ravichandran Ashwin for his 32 wickets.
After his side’s 13th straight series win at home, Kohli said: “The comeback pleased me the most. The first game was a bit of an aberration – that was just a hiccup. England outplayed us. The toss became very crucial because of the way the pitch played on the first two days; I don’t think the bowlers were in the contest at all.
“We had to pick up our body language after the first game in Chennai.
“Rohit’s knock was the defining moment. Getting 161 on that pitch is as good as getting 250 on any good batting wicket. It is definitely one of his best Test knocks, if not the best. Ashwin has been a banker for us in the past six, seven years in Test cricket. His numbers speak volumes.”