The Lord’s test confirmed to me what I feared after Dominica. India are a team that plays to its strengths and does well to hide its weaknesses. This India isn’t Kapil Dev‘s 1986 India or Steve Waugh‘s win-at-all-costs Australia or Clive Lloyd’s attack-relentlessly West Indies. This is not a criticism. It’s simply a recognition of reality.
This India is not about winning and losing and letting the ranking take care of itself. It feels like for this Indian team, managing the ranking is critical. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s press conference at the end of the Lord’s test was as much an exercise in excuse mongering than anything else that I have ever heard. It did his standing little good.
Batting in the fourth innings is never easy. It is in fact rare that a side facing 458 and more than a 100 overs can stave off defeat. However, it also appears that India were aware of this fact. In fact, they seem to have memorized these types of statistics. Therefore, while I saw gallant effort, I somehow didn’t see bloody-mindedness. I didn’t see the Sachin battling through back pain in Chennai or the Sachin batting with Prabhakar while scoring his maiden hundred. I didn’t see VVS fighting tooth and nail at Sydney to restore some pride to a match already lost. I didn’t see Dhoni from 2007 resolutely keeping away everything to instill confidence in the fans that he was not just a swashbuckler, but a man on a mission who had a decent head on his shoulders. Right from the moment Dravid fished foolishly outside off stump, it felt like India didn’t believe they could save the match.
The match was more or less lost when India lost Zaheer on day one. Dravid came back into his own and helped India make a match of it. So India are a good team. But unfortunately, India are still not close to wearing the tag of a “great” team. But this is more a mis-alignment with my romantic notion of wanting India to be a dominant world beater, than a problem with the Indian team. The Indian team has found a formula for success and is relentlessly sticking to it and executing it with great discipline.
While on the subject of Dravid, no one has scored more runs for India since his debut and no one has turned out in more tests than him. The fact that he has found his mojo again is great news for India. He has also graciously acknowledged that Tendulkar affords him the luxury of faiure, although it has been rare until recently.
Somehow, the World Cup win seems to have lulled India. It’s now been two tests in a row that India have given up on the last day facing high odds. There are huge positives coming out of this match that suggest that India can pull one or two back in the three tests to follow. Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Rahul Dravid. Maybe adding Sreesanth to the mix will create unpredictability required to the bowling. Harbhajan Singh perhaps needs some rest and needs to make way for Mishra. Bhajji isn’t batting or bowling well.
With Tendulkar and Gambhir hopefully finding their rhythm, India could be expected to win at least one test out of the remaining three. India have dealt with English batting reasonably well, despite not getting England out even once. With another bowler, India can take care of that. They seem to have good plans and are executing to them. However, I did feel that on the first morning Kumar and Sharma weren’t making the batsmen play enough, but that’s likely because they were still coming to terms with the amount of swing they were getting. With this test, behind them, India have much better chances of winning with or without Zaheer.
This loss didn’t hurt as much. The series has just begun.
Published with permission from Opinions On Cricket.