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‘Bazball or whatever ball…’: Anil Kumble shows mirror to Ben Stokes and McCullum after England’s series defeat

Anil Kumble feels it may be time for Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes to have a bit of ‘Bazball’ introspection in the wake of England’s series defeat to India.

Anil Kumble wants England, its captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum to take a hard look in the mirror when it comes to ‘Bazball’ after India beat them by 5 wickets in the fourth Test in Ranchi to clinch the five-match series 3-1 with a match to spare. Team India on Monday crushed the aura of invincibility surrounding England ever since McCullum took over. They took their unbeaten streak to 17 series at home and dealt the former New Zealand captain his first series defeat as coach. Rohit Sharma and his unit have, in the process, proved why they are the toughest opponent to beat at home.

It may be time to give ‘Bazball’ some introspection, feels Anil Kumble. (Reuters-Getty)

Bazball isn’t an official term. It’s a term coined after McCullum’s nickname ‘Baz’ and the aggressive style of batting implemented by England’s batters. And while for seven consecutive series, it paid off, England learnt it the hard way as to why India, when playing at home, is a different beast altogether. Bazball has received many a review from the world over, but the one dished out by Indian bowling legend Anil Kumble surely has got to be one of the biggest reality checks for McCullum and Stokes.

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“See the challenge when England came here was obvious. India is not going to easy. Bazball, whatever ball you call it… but it’s not going to be easy beating India at home. That is the reason why India has been so dominant over the years. Last decade, India have never lost a series at home. They knew they had to be different but their bowling attack wasn’t certainly something that they believed would be able to penetrate the Indian batting,” Kumble said while speaking to the host broadcaster.

“Once they got to know that some of the senior players won’t be available, with an inexperienced line-up, they had a chance, but senior batters didn’t contribute consistently in that middle order, including Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and even Joe Root – other than this Test match, so that’s where I thought they missed a trick there.”

With four series wins and three draws, Bazball had proved a point. This new England approach is fearless and the goal is to win at all costs. Even if the target is 400 from 45 overs, they are going to go for it. But while all of this sounds all hunky dory, Kumble stressed the need to give respect to the bowler, opposition and conditions. Root, England’s most successful Test batter in India, was all over the place playing ‘Bazball’ but the moment he returned to his old approach, he flourished with a century.

Kumble cites Gill’s example

For Kumble to prove his point, he did not need to look beyond Shubman Gill. The India batter, who loves to play shots, curbed his natural instincts when India, chasing 192 to win, were reduced to 120/5. Both he and Dhruv Jurel consumed 17 overs without hitting a single boundary and instead took singles to knock off the remaining runs brick by brick. So yeah, it may still be early days to jump the gun on Bazball, but England could really do with some introspection.

“It’s all nice to say ‘ok, this is the way I bat’. But you can’t do that all the time. Shubman Gill would have loved to pump every ball for a six off the off-spinner, and I’m sure the thought process was there, the intent was there. But you’ve got to hold back. In Test match cricket, that’s what it is. It’s about situations and that’s what Root did in Ranchi. No wonder he was successful. So it’s something England will have to discuss and look at. Not just about the aggressive approach but even the defence,” added Kumble, India’s highest wicket-taker in Tests.


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