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By Chetan Narula
Manchester: Aug 11, 2014
India‘s abject surrender in the fourth Test against England has come under attack from former cricketers, some of whom have raised serious questions marks over the team’s ability to stage a fightback in the final match of the series, starting August 15 at The Oval. With the five-match series evenly poised at 1-1, India produced a spineless batting performance to lose the fourth Test by an innings and 54 runs well inside three days, allowing England to take the lead.
The humiliating defeat has certainly raised a few questions about the young Indian team’s character. “There is such a short turn-around time between Tests in this series that batting extra-time in the nets won’t help Indian batsmen,” said former India wicket-keeper Vijay Dahiya. “When batsmen are not scoring runs and getting out in the same manner, things are bound to become technically challenging. And when you play successive Tests like this, you do not have time to work on your skills and implement it. Then, it becomes all about showing character and focussing on discipline, where this Indian team is found lacking,” he said.
“A simple example of this is how they have played Moeen Ali. At Southampton they defended against him and got out. So they attacked him at Old Trafford and still got out. Nobody thought that there was a match to save and you shouldn’t play such shots against him,” he added.
Vice-captain Virat Kohli looked a pale shadow of himself in the series so far and Dahiya said pressure is getting the better of the talented right-hander in the tour. “Kohli came into this series with a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He was expected to shine instead he hasn’t scored a lot of runs and he is getting out in the same manner in every innings. More than technical, it is a mental thing for him now,” the former stumper said.
“There is just too much pressure on him, self-pressure at times, that he has to do well and carry the team. But he cannot go away and figure things out. He has to fight it out himself. One way is to be disciplined like Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid, not play a particular stroke when it is troubling you,” Dahiya said.
“But does he have enough discipline to do that?” asked Dahiya, who has seen Kohli as a youngster during his coaching days for Delhi. Talking about another failure, Cheteshwar Pujara, Dahiya said the Saurashtra batsman is throwing away his wicket after getting starts. “The problem for Pujara is worse. He is getting starts and getting out. This is just lack of concentration combined with poor shot selection. It also goes to show how our openers have failed to do their job and shield these two batsmen,” he said.
It was sheer lack of application from the Indian batsman at the Old Trafford as they probably needed to see off just 61 overs on Day Three and perhaps another 30-40 overs on Day Five to save the match as it rained all morning on Sunday, stopping for hardly 20 minutes in the afternoon and then kept pouring through the evening.
That the fourth day’s play would have been washed off is a certainty. With poor drainage seen at Old Trafford on Day Two, it can be assumed that Day Five would have started late. At 2.30pm this afternoon it started raining heavily again. Batting for 100-odd overs to save a Test is not asking too much from a high-profile Test team, particularly when one of the opposition’s two main strike-bowlers is injured and the other is taken ill. But India batted 46.4 and 43 overs at Old Trafford, not even totalling 100 overs in two innings.
That statistics is truly incomprehensible considering India won at Lord’s by 95 runs only two matches ago. Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott summed it up beautifully. “Quite frankly, I do believe that England were so poor (at Lord’s) that they made India look better than they are,” he said.
“Because, if you think it through, their best batsmen, Virat Kohli hasn’t made a run on this tour and Cheteshwar Pujara, who’s their go-to-man at No 3, he hasn’t made any runs either,” said Boycott to BBC’s Test Match Special.
Meanwhile, India enjoyed their second off-day in Manchester on Monday with neither additional net sessions nor travel back to London scheduled for the 18-man squad. If things had gone according to plan, this would have been the final day of the fourth Test. But India had surrendered the match on Day Three itself to hand England an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the series.
When Australia had toured India in 2012-13, after losing the Hyderabad Test and giving away a 2-0 lead in four days, skipper Michael Clarke had his entire squad report at nets immediately. They toiled hard on the match-wicket that day and again next day. It did not bring results as the series was still lost 0-4 but at least there was ample intent.
Comparatively, India have more to play for. They cannot win the series but can still level the series with a win in the fifth Test at the Oval. The argument of poor weather doesn’t help either because the Lancashire County Club offers good indoor facilities. But there is no sign of such an effort coming forth from this touring Indian side.
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