Chris Waters: Selection blunders critical to walkover by India

India celebrate the wicket of Jonny Bairstow on the final day. (Pictures: AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
India celebrate the wicket of Jonny Bairstow on the final day. (Pictures: AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
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THERE is no shame in losing to a better team.

Sometimes you just have to give credit to the opposition.

India captain Virat Kohli carries a stump as he celebrates clinching the series.

India captain Virat Kohli carries a stump as he celebrates clinching the series.

But England’s Test series defeat in India has been compounded by self-inflicted blunders.

They have made it too easy for the hosts to go 3-0 up with one game to play.

It is an excuse to say that India are the best side in the world and that the scoreline simply reflects their status.

England showed in the first Test in Rajkot that they could not only compete with India, but also that they could come close to beating them in their own conditions.

After scoring 537 in their first innings, England were within four wickets of victory when hands were shaken on the draw.

It should have been the springboard for a hard-fought series.

Instead, it has turned into a walkover.

Selection has been England’s greatest problem.

Going into the tour and during it, they have made key errors.

The problem dates back many months, which means that Adil Rashid’s first series of more than three Tests, for example, has come against the world’s No 1 side in their own backyard.

Last year, you may remember that Adam Lyth’s Test career fell away after he was pitched into battle against the might of New Zealand and Australia after England inexplicably preferred Jonathan Trott to open against the lesser threat of the West Indies.

To his credit, Rashid has done well on the present tour.

Granted, he did not have the best of matches in Mumbai, but the Yorkshire leg-spinner has taken 22 wickets in the series at 32, with Moeen Ali England’s second-highest wicket-taker with nine at 51.

But how much more dangerous might Rashid have been – and how much more confident in his own ability – had he not played the piffling number of five Tests leading into the series?

England should have stuck with him sooner.

Regardless of historical failings, England’s selections throughout the winter, both in Bangladesh and India, have been unfathomable.

Who in their right mind believed that Ben Duckett – fine one-day player that he is – was a better bet to open in Test cricket than Haseeb Hameed?

Who imagined that Gareth Batty – 39 years young – would be the answer to England’s spin bowling prayers?

One can argue about whether Gary Ballance should have travelled, whether Jack Leach should have been taken, whether Keaton Jennings should have been picked in the first place, and so on, but there is little doubt that England have consistently picked the wrong side and also got the balance wrong.

In addition to those self-inflicted wounds, England have not helped themselves in the heat of battle.

Missed chances in the field in Mumbai alone cost 354 runs as England became just the third side to lose a Test by an innings despite scoring 400 in their first innings.

India’s fielding has also been poor, unbecoming of a team which Anil Kumble, their coach, believes can become the best of all time.

That is some claim from the former leg-spinner, but no one would dispute that, in Virat Kohli and Ravi Ashwin, India have two genuinely great players.

As was crystal clear before the tour started, England had to score big runs just to stay with India – let alone beat them.

They managed it in Rajkot, but have since been found wanting.

England lost the second Test in Visakhapatnam by 246 runs after conceding a first innings deficit of 200, and the third in Mohali by eight wickets after conceding a first innings deficit of 134.

In Mumbai, their first innings deficit was 231, which afforded the likes of Ashwin a head-start that was hardly required.

It is easy to stick the boot in when things go wrong, but this is a defeat that will leave some feeling angry.

Afterwards, head coach Trevor Bayliss said that “some of the signs going forward are pretty good” and that “Alastair Cook has the job (of captain) for as long as he wants it”.

It appears that a reality check is required.

Under the current regime, England, if anything, are going backwards.