On the fourth day of the fifth Test against England, India batted on and on, eventually declaring at 7/759. This was India’s highest ever Test score, but that was not the reason for the delayed declaration.
The reason was to provide young Karun Nair a chance to scale the batsman’s equivalent of Mount Everest – scoring a triple century.
Was Indian captain Virat Kohli right in allowing him time to get to 300? Or should he have declared earlier, when Karun was on 250, so as to give India’s bowlers extra time to make a late break-through.
To be fair to Karun, he upped the ante and took just 33 balls to progress from 250 to 300.
The pitch was supposed to be placid. The majority of the pundits were of the opinion that England should have been put in with an hour or so of play. England survived the five overs they had to play. They even survived the first two hours of the fifth day and went in for lunch with all ten wickets left. However afterwards, they spectacularly lost all ten wickets in the next two sessions to lose by an innings. This was the first time any team lost by an innings after putting up 477 in the first innings.
Was Kohli right in allowing his young batsman a chance to reach a triple century?
Sunil Gavaskar in his article before the fifth day’s play had said a few “churlish” questions will be asked, especially if India does not bowl out England, as to why an individual landmark was given importance. However, i feel Kohli was right, even if England had held on for a draw
300s don’t happen often. Only 19 batsmen in Test cricket’s history have scored a 300.The series was already won three-nil. Even if England drew, there was little difference to the overall series result.
If India couldn’t bowl England out in 95 overs, then there was no guarantee that they would get him out in 105-107 overs.
By allowing Karun to reach a triple century, he gave him the rare honour of being only the third batsman, after Sir Garfield Sobers and Bob Simpson, to reach the milestone during their maiden Test ton innings.
The achievement may also give him the confidence to play many more long innings for India, while improving the morale of the entire dressing room.
In contrast, during the first Test between Australia and the West Indies in 2015, captain Steve Smith declared his innings at 4/583 when Adam Voges was 269 not out. This declaration denied his batsman a chance to go in for a historic triple century. However it was in line with the Australian thinking that personal landmarks have no role in a team game.
But i feel Steve Smith was wrong to declare.
Australia were 583/4 in only 114 overs. Their run-rate was over five runs an over. It was not even lunch time on the second day and time was not of the essence.
Adam Voges was 269 not out in 285 balls at a strike rate of 95. His strike rate, in fact, was better than the team’s.
A historic 300 was missed, without any material advantage for the team.
And as things had it, West Indies batted for a combined 106 overs in both innings put together.
It is not that individual landmarks are more important than the team’s interests. They are not, and can never be. However, when the team’s interest is not hampered, there is nothing wrong in allowing a personal landmark. It may lift the morale of the individual and the team, thereby helping team interest overall.