India were thrashed by an innings and 54 runs at Old Trafford © Getty Images
Looks can be deceiving but you can’t hide the real deal for long on a cricket field. India, having lost the Old Trafford Test by a huge margin have not only gone in to a shell, they’ve allowed England to feel like champions again. Abhijit Banare looks at the mindset of the India ahead of The Oval Test.
Ever since the Lord’s Test, the scoreline of this India-England series has been extremely deceiving. When the series was tied 1-1, it seemed as though England were heading in to the final two Test of the series with momentum on their side. And after winning at Old Trafford, the look on Alastair Cook’s face said: “Right, we are looking forward to the dead rubber at The Oval having won the Test series.” Even the commentators rarely muttered a word about a possibility of India levelling the series in the final Test. When a team can’t bat for 90 overs in both their innings combined, it indicates a lot about their mindset. (Statistical overview of India’s top-order collapses)
Over after over, session after session, day after day, England have squeezed India out of the series or should we say, India have allowed to the opposition to get back in; whichever way you prefer to look at it. When they head to The Oval for the final Test, the writing is clear on the wall. Of course cricket is a game of ‘glorious’ uncertainties but seldom have we seen a team pick up the pieces in a series when they have lost the psychological battle and not necessarily their playing form. Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane have all looked solid in the first two Tests but there was little to explain about their dismissals in the next two. Read more on how India could’ve saved the fourth Test
Are there positives to look forward to? The only assuring moment from the fourth Test was Ravichandran Ashwin’s batting. Apart from that, one couldn’t sense any fight. Right at the top, the pressure will be immense on Gautam Gambhir to save his place and Murali Vijay too has looked out of sorts since the brilliant start to the series. It was heartening to see Dhoni’s effort with the bat. With the technique under question, Dhoni has fought hard and showed an instinct for survival. (10 reasons for India’s slump against England)
The Kohli factor: This aspect has been discussed right through the series. Four Tests, dismissed by James Anderson four times and you are very well aware what to expect at The Oval. Dare, one say that Kohli is Anderson’s bunny. Because that would mean there’s a mental block against a particular bowler. In this case, Anderson has found out exactly where the chinks in Kohli’s armour are and has delightfully exploited it. (Kohli’s dismissal playing on his mind?)
Role of Ravindra Jadeja: The moment Ashwin entered the XI, Jadeja became the fifth bowler for India. And not only was the fifth bowler ineffective, his role with the bat should certainly be reviewed. Not known for being a batsman with a technique for Test cricket, Jadeja has often failed to provide solidity. It happened in South Africa, in New Zealand and is repeating in England. It won’t be a surprise if he will be excluded from the last Test, but it doesn’t help much if the team isn’t sure about the No 7 slot.
The pace attack: Led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the Indian pace attack has somehow managed to salvage some pride. Varun Aaron was impressive with his pace; Ishant Sharma showed glimpses of consistency and Bhuvneshwar is clearly the star of the series. Pankaj Singh was good in patches but his lack of consistency may keep him away from the final Test. Going in to The Oval, it’s the pacers who can script a turnaround. Bhuvneshwar, Ishant and Aaron are the likely combination. They would have pocketed a lot of confidence with their individual performances which will show up in the final Test. (Indian bowlers restore pride in embarrassing defeat)
When they look back after the series, this was a young Indian side and was expected to struggle in England. The Lord’s win indicated that this wasn’t going to be a meek surrender. But in the two Tests that followed, their confidence has been severely dented. On the other hand, England, in its rebuilding face will build on their confidence to move forward.
Catch all the coverage of India’s tour to England here
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)