Did India plan their own downfall?
The controversy has been long running, whether a team should build tracks tailor-made for their style of play and hampers the opposition’s game. Dhoni was heavily criticized for this, especially by the likes of former Australian captain, Steve Waugh, following Dhoni’s request for a rank turner that offered help to spinners from Day-1. Even the Mumbai Cricket Association official classified Dhoni’s demands as illegal.
We have seen the likes of Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand leaving a lot of green grass on the wicket when the teams from the sub-continent visit them, especially India, given that they struggle against the moving ball. Then why is India’s demand for a rank turner unjust?
It’s cricket, where there is nothing like ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, which means guests are like god. When you have a team that struggles against spin and it is your forte, why not vie for turners?
Dhoni, not paying any sort of attention to this, went ahead with insisting on a rank turner. Everything went in India’s favour, the pitch and the toss. India, playing with three spinners, would have been looking for a mammoth first innings total and then wreaking havoc on the visitors as the pitch worsened.
India got off to a poor start, losing wickets at regular intervals to the English spin duo. If it was not for Pujara and Ashwin and a few dropped catches, India would have found themselves tottering. Courtesy of the batting pair, India got to a decent total of 327.
This brings to light a fact Dhoni might have missed or probably didn’t take too seriously. England has what other teams don’t. Unlike other teams, the English have two quality spinners in their ranks. The likes of Swann are right up there amongst the best and his colleague, Panesar too is one to be wary of.
The pitch had turn, but was a little slow and the going by the looks of it, almost all the critics fraternity opined the match is not going to last the five days.
The pitch ideally suited Panesar, who is a little quicker through the air. Quickness through the air accompanied by turn from the track made for a lethal combo for the England spinner. He bowled quickly, making it difficult for the batsmen to get to the pitch of it. Swann on the other hand is a little slower through the air, but inspite of getting purchase from the wicket, allowed the batsman to get to the pitch of the ball. The instances he got wickets, were the times when he quickened his pace a bit.
India probably dug their own grave. The likes of Sehwag, Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Kohli and Dhoni, all got out, failing to get to the pitch of the ball properly, owing to Panesar’s smart line and length, combined with the perfect pace.
Pujara, though, probably highlighted the fact that it isn’t an impossible wicket. He was decisive with his footwork and once he got in, it was all easy. Though he’s gifted and organized, other are too, but it was his sheer determination that allowed him to hang in there. He was dropped at gully, but didn’t let that play on his mind and went on with the flow. May be it was for the man’s genius, but the fact that Ashwin too hung around and even Bhajji got some runs down the order confirms that if you apply yourselves on this wicket, you can score runs.
England have now got off to a fantastic start, just 149 runs behind India’s total. 178-2 with Cook and Pietersen at the crease and looking well set. Cook has been England’s best batman by a distance and seems to be the threat for India.
Another mistake India probably made was choosing the bowlers to open the attack. Neither the new ball seam bowler Zaheer was into the attack nor the one who has done it for quite a few years now, Harbhajan. Zaheer, who is known to swing the ball, may have caused a little trouble. Harbhajan is a lot quicker through the air and often generates good bounce with the new ball. Ashwin and Ojha, the pair who started the proceedings for India are better equipped to bowl with a relatively older ball and if you have other options in the side, why not? Dhoni might have just missed a trick there, which led to India failing to get that crucial early breakthrough to put a dent on the England innings.
Had India pushed on with an early wicket, they would have got the out of form and struggling Trott early, creating a chance to dig in deep, but as it stands, India might have dug it in for themselves!
Tomorrow morning would be crucial and if India can scalp a couple of wickets, they will be right back in the game, or else the Cook-Pietersen pair may take it away from them, followed by a waiting Swann-Panesar pairing on the 4th day of the test.
There are surely going to be testing times ahead for India.