This Indian team perhaps doesn’t care enough about winning or losing

Perhaps, Team India doesn’t take that much doing anymore, what with the batting line-up in such dire straits © Getty Images

Slowly, patiently and meticulously, a 21-year-old debutant by the name of Joe Root seized the initiative for England with an impressive 73 in the deciding Test being played at Nagpur and laid bare India’s alarming weaknesses in the longest form of the game.  

By the end of Day Two, Team India had managed 14 runs more than Root for the loss of four wickets. Graeme Swann and Matt Prior were not too far behind Team India either. Perhaps, it doesn’t take that much doing anymore, what with the batting line-up in such dire straits.  Some India loyalists have taken recourse to all varieties of blinkers and rose-tinted glasses to paint a picture of utmost positivity. But nothing takes the sting out of such (albeit well intentioned) pep talk more than the sight of a diminutive first timer showing more application and skill than the home bullies have thus far in this series (barring the first Test, that is).

Like India, England too have some holes to fill in their batting line-up, though you may not believe it looking at the scorecard.  Whether Nick Compton will indeed be a long term replacement for Andrew Strauss remains to be seen. Meanwhile, they have had a tough time finding a successor to steely lower middle-order warrior Paul Collingwood, who retired from Test cricket in 2011. Ravi Bopara got his chances and was finally chopped. Samit Patel, Eoin Morgan, James Taylor and Johnny Bairstow don’t seem to have impressed much confidence (nor does Ian Bell for that matter).

It may be that they have found the answer in Joe Root, though his handling of a hostile Dale Steyn or James Pattinson spell would probably be the litmus test of his worthiness. At any rate, he certainly responded to the need of the hour and played an innings of stunning self denial in what is supposed to be the era of fast food cricket.  In a stay that lasted 289 minutes and 229 balls, he strung together crucial partnerships with Prior and Swann to guide England to a healthy total of 330.  

However, in a baffling trend I have observed throughout this series, commentators appeared reluctant to suggest that the total presented a troubling challenge to India. They felt that Virender Sehwag’s performance would be the true measure of the run-making potential of this pitch. Well, you blinked and he missed and James Anderson hit…the middle stump with a beauty of an inswinger. Demons appeared to have visited this lifeless pitch and they proceeded to torment the Indian batsmen. Or were these demons a product of their imagination, their self doubt which they have tried to mask for the last year or so with near-amusing swagger and bluster?

Cricket is a great leveller and I would be foolish to prematurely stick my neck out about the result or Sehwag’s likely score in the second essay. However, there is no doubt as to which team emphatically enjoys the upper hand at the end of Day Two.  On a spitfire of a turning track at Mumbai, on an even-paced, true pitch at Kolkata and now on a dead slow surface at Nagpur, whether batting first or batting second, England have looked much more at home in these conditions than India. 

Could it possibly be because they are much more at home with Test cricket and its demands than this jaded, uninspired Indian outfit? After all, isn’t Test cricket all about struggle, about intense battle against the odds? In other words, the very antithesis of demanding pitches that turn square from Day One so that you don’t have to play five days of cricket.  Maybe the reason for India’s string of losses to England lies therein, in how England, like Joe Root, have been prepared to slog, to sweat it out and do the hard yards in anticipation of the alluring nectar of victory.  The allure that prompted even self-styled rockstar Kevin Pietersen to graft more than he probably has in an entire Test career and compile a half century for England.  

As Gautam Gambhir’s brazen indifference at the Mumbai Test defeat suggests, perhaps this Indian team doesn’t care enough about winning or losing. The question then is: Why should we either?

(Madan Mohan is a 27-year old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was 8 and to date, he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake. He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy athttp://rothrocks.wordpress.com)