Despite disappointing displays in the last two Tests, India have shown flair in the series too © Getty Images
India put in a very good performance initially in the series, going 1-0 up after the second Test at Lord’s. India may have lost two matches in a row since then, but Shiamak Unwalla feels that the visitors can still bounce back and win the fifth and final match at The Oval.
India do not look like a team that won a famous victory mere weeks ago. The intensity and vigour that usually comes with such a win has been replaced with the tiredness that comes with a couple of spineless defeats. Murali Vijay has failed for two matches in a row. Gautam Gambhir did not have an auspicious comeback either. Cheteshwar Pujara has continued to baffle his legion of fans with a string of low scores.
Despite their obviously overwhelming shortcomings , India can still turn things around. Gambhir has the determined attitude to fight it out in the middle. Vijay just needs to go back to his reserves of patience and focus on leaving deliveries which are not in his comfort zone. Pujara has not looked out of sorts, despite getting low scores in the last few games. With a little more concentration and application, he should start succeeding again.
And then there is Virat Kohli. He has not been a patch on his usual self. However, according to reports, Kohli has modified his stance a little, and is looking to play much straighter, based on his last few net sessions. While this might not seem to make a huge difference, one is reminded of how Yuvraj Singh turned things around for himself in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014.
After looking in terrible form throughout, Yuvraj made a simple adjustment midway through the tournament when he started taking a middle-stump guard rather than a leg-stump guard. That tiny change turned his fortunes around in an astonishing fashion, and Yuvraj went on to play some absolute blinders after that.
Of course, that was IPL, played in India, with a lot of domestic Indian bowlers in operation. But the very fact that a minor change had such a humongous change in a batsman’s fortunes means that if Kohli can get a few off the middle of the bat, his confidence is likely to do the rest.
Ajinkya Rahane has looked consistently good throughout the series. MS Dhoni has batted well, at both No 6 and 7 but his captaincy has been the subject of much ire. Ravichandran Ashwin batted like a charm at Old Trafford, but failed to take a wicket. In a post-match interview though, Ashwin seemed quite confident about his bowling, and even said that he felt he had bowled better than he had in a while. The fact that he is obviously at peace with himself bodes well for India, and is likely to make him a better bowler than he has seemed for a while.
Ravindra Jadeja might have played his final overseas Test for an indefinite period. His batting clearly lacks the responsibility of playing a long innings, and his bowling has been extremely ineffective. Bhuvneshwar Kumar though, has been consistent with the ball, but has failed to replicate the batting form he showed in the first two Tests. That being said, his level head and workman-like attitude makes him an asset for any team.
Varun Aaron was one of the few bright spots in the last Test, and his pace will provide Dhoni with a probing, attacking option at The Oval. Pankaj Singh had an eventful debut but if Ishant Sharma is fit, Pankaj will probably be left out. The return of India’s hero from Lord’s is sure to boost a side that has been low on confidence.
Dhoni’s captaincy was the subject of some debate, but the fact that he elected to bat first in tough conditions having selected two spinners with himself batting at No 6 shows that he is not going in with a defensive mindset. In fact, his positive decision to continue batting at No 6 to accommodate five bowlers backfired only because his front line batsmen failed to do their jobs.
India do not look like a team that won a famous victory mere weeks ago. But if their players can show some intensity and play responsibly, that could all change very soon.
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(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)