Test match batting is in decline. That's what India captain Virat Kohli feels in an age when pitches have become result-oriented and bowlers have raised their game several-fold.
In just the last two years, various teams have suffered outrageous collapses. England were knocked over for 58 by New Zealand's swing and seam. New Zealand were sucker-punched from 61 for 1 to 90 all out by Pakistan's spin. India themselves were brushed aside on a lush green pitch at Lord's, making only 107 after promising so much more during their tour of England in 2018.
Pitched a question by Ian Bishop during Cricket West Indies' awards night about whether modern-day batsmen have been doing enough, Kohli replied, "Well, if I have to be brutally honest, I don't think us batsmen have lived up to the standard. We have travelled a lot over the past year-and-a-half and it's been challenging. We lost in England but won in Australia because the batsmen pulled up."
"People have been talking about Test cricket not being relevant or dying down but for me the competition has gone up at least two-fold over the last couple of years" Virat Kohli
That was when Cheteshwar Pujara, the team's mainstay at No. 3, had the series of his life, scoring 521 runs in seven innings, including three centuries, against a bowling attack that featured Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.
"As much as individuals stand out," Kohli said, "I think it's about batting well as a team and every team wants to put up a strong total on the board for the bowlers to come in and capitalise."
Meanwhile, West Indies captain Jason Holder hoped he and his fast bowling team-mates could continue the good work shown during their last Test series, a 2-1 victory over England in February 2019, in the upcoming World Test Championship games against India.
"I think over the last two-three years, our fast bowlers have really led us," he said. "They've done everything I can ask of them, particularly Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel, who have probably led our bowling attack for the last two-three years. It's just a matter for them to stay hungry and stay fit and I think they've set a really good example for the other fast bowlers to follow.
"We've had young Alzarri Joseph playing in the last series. Unfortunately, he got injured, but even he came into his own and really showed some promising signs as a very, very young fast bowler. You know, I had an interesting conversation with a few other team-mates before about how impressive he was and the maturity he showed in that series and I think it's all due to the fact that people like Kemar and Shannon have been really leading the way for them, nurturing them in their journey in Test cricket.
"So once we continue to build as a side and players get more confidence and obviously the experience of playing Test cricket, then we can probably keep rising and go up the rankings."
Kohli responded with the batsman's perspective, saying there were tough times ahead. Case in point is the ongoing Ashes series, which has shown that bowlers who are still very early in their careers have crazy skills. Twenty-four-year old Jofra Archer looks every bit the leader of England's attack after only one Test while on the opposite side, 26-year-old Pat Cummins is ranked No. 1 with 914 rating points. Only four other men in the history of Test cricket have managed to earn more.
"As you rightly said, the bowlers have really come into their own," Kohli said. "And as Jason mentioned their bowling attack is as lethal as anyone's in home conditions. So we know we're up against a big challenge here in red-ball cricket. It's always going to be hard work, especially in Test cricket, when the bowling group knows what they're doing and that happens to be the case with all teams around the world.
"People have been talking about Test cricket not being relevant or dying down but for me the competition has gone up at least two-fold over the last couple of years. It's really up to the players to take the challenge up and go for victories. That's obviously going to be the essence of this Test championship as well. There'll hardly be any boring draws, there'll be exciting draws because everyone is gonna want those extra points. So yeah, I think batsmanship is always going to be hard at Test level but even harder now in the Test championship because every decision is going to count in the larger scheme of things."