Rahul Dravid, India's head coach, pointed to potential issues with fitness and sustained intensity among the bowlers in the aftermath of their failure to defend a target of 378 against England in the fifth Test. England chased down their highest fourth-innings target at Edgbaston with seven wickets in hand half an hour before lunch on the final day. By the end, England had scored their second-innings runs at 4.93 per over. This was also the highest target India have failed to defend in their history.
The defeat denied India a first series win in England since 2007 and meant that the interrupted Pataudi Trophy was eventually shared 2-2. This result came on the back of two defeats in South Africa earlier this year, when India failed to defend 240 and 212 in successive Tests, having defended 305 in the first.
"It's been disappointing for us," Dravid said. "I mean we had a couple of opportunities in South Africa as well and here as well. I just think it's something we need to look at, something we need to probably work on.
"We have been very good at that over the last few years, in terms of taking wickets and winning those Test matches. But, yeah, we haven't been able to do that over the last few months. It could be a variety of factors: it could be maybe we just need to maintain that intensity, maintain that level of fitness, or maintain that level of performance right through a Test match."
India have used a combination of four pace bowlers from Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav across those Tests with one spinner: R Ashwin in South Africa and Ravindra Jadeja at Edgbaston.
It wasn't the bowling in the fourth innings alone, however, where the Test was lost. India's third-innings collapse of 7 for 92, which scaled back a potential target from 450-plus to under 400, played a part.
"In the second innings, we have not batted as well," Dravid said. "If you look at all the third innings of these two Test matches overseas and this one, the batting has also probably not been up to scratch. In both areas, we have sort of started the Test matches well but we haven't been able to finish well and yeah we need to get better at that and certainly need to improve."
Post-result, there will be scrutiny - as there was all summer last year - on the exclusion of Ashwin. He didn't play a single Test of the four last year, though India were leading the series 2-1 at the end of it. Dravid did not think, however, that the surface warranted two spinners.
"In hindsight, you can always look at things and look at the combination of your team. Shardul has done a good job for us in these games," Dravid said. "It is always not easy to leave someone like Ash out in a Test match. But having said that, when we looked at the wicket on the first day, it had a pretty good even covering of grass. We felt that there was enough in it for the fast bowlers.
Dravid: The pitch 'didn't really turn enough to justify' playing Ashwin
"We felt that there was enough in it for the fast bowlers"
"And even going into the last day the wicket hasn't really spun - whether it's for Jack Leach, whether it's for Ravindra Jadeja who bowled through the Test match. If anything, because maybe the weather played a part over the first days, and there weren't long phases of sun, the wicket didn't break up as much as we expected it to, or didn't spin as much as we expected it to. It's easy to look back on the fifth day and say it would have been nice to have a second spinner in the fourth innings, but again it didn't really turn to justify that."
Perhaps the year-long gap for the conclusion of the series played a part. When the Old Trafford Test was called off last year, India and England were both in very different spaces. England, in particular, were in a rut of results that would see them lose the Ashes 4-0, a series in the Caribbean and, ultimately result in a comprehensive leadership change. In the interim, India also have a new captain and coach and though they have won at home comfortably, they did lose their only overseas Test series in South Africa.
"I don't want to make excuses," Dravid said. "I wasn't part of the team then. India was on a roll at that stage. England were probably in a slightly different situation at that point of time. But they have come here on the back of three consecutive wins against New Zealand. We have had a long gap in between Test cricket, but no excuses.
"They played well over the five days. We had our opportunities, we played well over the first three days. We couldn't maintain that. That's why Test cricket is hard. And that's why Test cricket means that you have got to be able to keep putting those performances right through the five days. We were not able to do that and they did that better than us and they deserved to win this Test match."