By Karthik Parimal
England won the first Test with a sizable margin and many expected a hurt India to reply in a resounding manner in the second Test. However, the English were well prepared and certainly had different plans. Not just different, they had an uncomplicated and organized approach when confronted with a situation. Unlike India, they showed unflinching determination throughout this Test. Apart from the first two sessions, it would be fair to say that India never completely dominated any of the remaining sessions and their performance appeared lackluster in every department. It will be an uphill task for India from here to retain their numero uno status.
Having restricted England to 124 for the loss of eight wickets at Tea on the first day, India could have put a quick end to England’s first innings with no sweat. It was Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann who defied the uninspired Indians and put up a solid partnership at the end to steer England to a somewhat respectable total. This has been India’s area of concern lately and it was proved yet again as England’s lower-order piled runs at a brisk pace in the second innings which eventually cost India the Test. The Indian bowlers toiled and the intensity was lacking. Bowling was a primary concern before the start of this series and batting was considered to be India’s strength. Nonetheless, barring a few, the devil-may-care attitude of this Indian batting line-up and botched fielding has cost the team dearly in this series thus far.
A lot was expected from the Indian batting stalwarts and except on rare occasions, they continually failed to deliver, perhaps because of injuries to regular players that resulted in a fair amount of shuffling of the batting order.
Abhinav Mukund looked promising in the first Test, but failed deplorably in the second. Suresh Raina couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity to cement his place in the Test squad and the same can be said about Yuvraj Singh, who scored 62 in the first innings but looked flustered against fast bowlers. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s poor form with the bat and gloves continued. He has not been successful in his attempt to lead from the front in this series.
The Indians must now look to start afresh and believe that the worst is over. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag are set to join the team for the remaining Tests and this undoubtedly will be a major boost since these two openers can inject some much-needed aggression into a confidence-depleted side. India is a side that relies on its openers quite a bit. The middle-order has generally capitalized on the good start provided by the openers, something that has been lacking throughout this series.
It is true that one player alone cannot change the course of a game, but in Sehwag’s case, it is known that he can motivate an entire batting line-up with his style of play and approach. If Sehwag gets going, he can demoralize the bowlers and can claim psychological advantage over the opposition. He has done that in the past and India as a team has performed better on most occasions whenever the openers have clicked.
Zaheer Khan’s return to the side for the third Test is still uncertain and it is a given that India’s bowling will continue to struggle without him. India has heavily depended on him since the last couple of years. However, Zaheer’s return would definitely be a shot in the arm for India since it will take some burden off Praveen Kumar. Amit Mishra should be given a chance in the third Test ahead of the out-of-form Harbhajan Singh and he can be a gamble worth taking since England are known to struggle against leg-spin. Also, it will be an interesting option to go with four fast bowlers and leave out the spinners.
Although India had its shortcomings, credit must be given to the English for a first-rate performance. They outplayed India in every department and remained positive in times of adversity. Stuart Broad, who was under a lot of pressure to perform before the start of this series, delivered when his side needed it the most. This English team can be world-beaters and will not look to take their foot off the gas pedal even though they lead the series 2-0.
India will have to play out of their skins to level this series from here. Is too much cricket or lack of focus on Test cricket preventing India from playing their best game? The head-honchos will have to come up with solutions to a lot of unanswered questions and find ways of keeping key players physically fit for a series as crucial as this one. Perhaps this series against England can be a wake-up call of sorts.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it).
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