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India need to turn opportunities into victories

India need to turn opportunities into victories
Over the five Tests against England, India will have sessions where they will hold the initiative with the bat and ball © Getty Images

India’s tour of England 2014 presents yet another opportunity for MS Dhoni to work on his abysmal record away from home. While India succumbed to heavy losses in earlier tours, the last two produced improved performances. R Vishal analyses the team’s mentality ahead of the series.

Jacques Kallis had just departed for South Africa. Chasing a mammoth 458 in the fourth innings, India had set their sights on a rare away win. With an entire fifth day left, childhood mates AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis thwarted the Indian attack. Eventually, the Proteas settled for a draw in the historic Test match at Johannesburg.

Although, the stage was set for India, they let the advantage slip and out went the chance to restore some parity in MS Dhoni’s wretched record on foreign soil. Ever since the India’s batting ‘galácticos’ were dismantled brick-by-brick after humiliating whitewashes in England and Australia, the team’s metamorphosis has endured a rather bumpy ride.

Loosening their grip on a potential winning scenario time and again, has proved detrimental to the young team’s progress. On the contrary, there is another interesting case study about the team’s uncanny knack of pulling off near-impossible feats, when the chips are down.

Two months after the Johannesburg Test, India were playing in Auckland, New Zealand. The hosts posted a huge score in the first innings and India put a tepid display with the bat. When defeat was staring at their faces, India pulled off spectacular feats, both with bat and ball in the second essay. The men in blue ran through New Zealand batting line-up to bundle them out for 105. While they were still chasing a 400 plus target, an inspired batting display took them just 39 runs short making history.

The second Test at Wellington would prove to be all the more painful for India. This time it was Brendon McCullum’s awe-inspiring heist alongside BJ Watling that frustrated the Indian bowling attack.

In South Africa and New Zealand though, India’s age old capitulation problems existed. The opposition bowlers just flattened the middle and the lower-order. While this has nothing to do with the team’s mentality, recent results have shown the perils of one or two bad sessions in a Test. England have been the torchbearers in recent months. Being in the drivers’ seat in eight out of 10 sessions in the two Tests against Sri Lanka recently, the English still succumbed to an agonizing defeat at Headingley.

The last time India were complacent against England, they suffered a home series loss for close to a decade. After a comprehensive win in the first Test match in 2012-13, Alastair Cook rallied his men to a monumental 1-2 win in India. The bowling line-up is raw after veteran Zaheer Khan’s snub but as Sri Lanka showed, it is the killer instinct combined with smart, attacking captaincy that win you Tests.

Over the five Tests in the Old Blighty, India will have sessions where they will hold the initiative with the bat and ball. It is how well they captialise and build on them that will have a say on the final outcome. If not, it could turn out to be yet another familiar tale in Team India’s travels as they face a team hungry for victories.

(R Vishal is a journalist and alumnus of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)

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