The independent voice of cricket

India v England 2024

Nasser Hussain: This is not the moment to doubt Bazball, but England must learn lessons

Nasser Hussain on Bazball
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Former England captain Nasser Hussain insisted that this was not the right moment to doubt Bazball, despite England’s defeat in the ongoing Test series in India.

England won the first Test of the five-match series, at Hyderabad, but victories at Visakhapatnam, Rajkot, and Ranchi have helped India take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series. This was the first series England lost since Ben Stokes took over as captain in the summer of 2022.

“There’s no shame in losing in India, who have now won 17 home series in a row,” reminded Nasser Hussain in his Daily Mail column. “This is no time to throw out Bazball, which has provided exciting cricket for the past 18 months and still has plenty of credit in the bank, despite a first series defeat for Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.”

“England have consistently made the point that they want to shut out the external noise, and that is fair enough, and there aren’t many better voices to listen to than Stokes and McCullum,” assured Hussain, while reminding cricketers of the crucial “third voice” – ”your own, the little person on the shoulder who asks you how you can keep getting better.

Hussain added: “England will feel they’ve let positions slip in this series – not least on the third day in Ranchi, when they allowed India to get too close to their first-innings score, then weren’t sure whether to stick or twist with the bat second time round.”

After putting up 353, England had India at 177-7 before the hosts recovered to 307 and bowled out the tourists for 145. On the third day, India made 128-3 and took 10-145 to turn the game on its head.

To improve and turn things around, “each player will have to look at his own game, and be honest with himself – as Joe Root was before the fourth Test following his struggles in the first three. After making 29, 2, 5, 16, 18, and 7 in the series, Root made an unbeaten 122 in the first innings at Ranchi.

“You look at someone like Ollie Pope, and his series has been a bit feast or famine: a match-winning 196 at Hyderabad, followed by 88 runs in six innings and a pair at Ranchi. He needs to ask himself how he can be less frenetic at the start of his innings.

“Or Zak Crawley, who has moved from being an inconsistent player, by McCullum’s own admission, to a player who keeps making decent scores, but isn’t turning half-centuries into something more substantial – as Yashasvi Jaiswal has done so well for India.”

Crawley averages 32.46 in Test cricket, but has reached double figures every time in this series. However, he has made only three fifties and is yet to reach eighty. Jaiswal, on the other hand, has two double hundreds in the series and has equalled Virat Kohli’s record for most runs in a Test series for India against England.

“Even a newcomer like Tom Hartley can be self-critical,” reminded Hussain, while speaking of England’s young spinners. “He’s done superbly to take 20 wickets in his first series, but for a finger-spinner he sometimes loses his length. And if someone like Rehan Ahmed wants to force his way into the Test team in home conditions, he might want to rethink his statement the other day that bowling maidens is boring.

“The way he [Stokes] got the best out of Shoaib Bashir is a case in point – just the latest youngster to come in to this side and do well straightaway. A lot of spinners can deceive batters off the pitch, and Bashir is both accurate and uses his height well to get bounce. But to do well in all conditions – as Graeme Swann showed – you need to be able to deceive them in the air, and the dip Bashir gets is very exciting.

“It’s a quality he’ll need if he’s going to be part of the Test team in English conditions, but I’ve been very impressed with someone who’s barely played any first-class cricket before.

“As I said, this is not the moment to doubt Bazball,” Hussain emphasised, “which has brought England 14 wins and seven defeats in 22 Tests. As they promised, they have not done dull draws, and they’ve won twice as many as they’ve lost. It’s a damn sight better than what we had before.

“But this tour of India has been a reminder that they can still be a bit smarter at times, and a bit more ruthless. As it is, they’ve come up against a very strong Indian side who have grabbed the key moments better – and that’s a lesson England can learn from.”

Subscribe to the Wisden Cricket YouTube channel for post-match analysis, player interviews, and much more.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99