August 13, 2002

India's chances of levelling series remote

The inescapable conclusion to be drawn from events at Trent Bridge is that it is going to be well-nigh impossible for India to level the Test series let alone win it. The batting could help the visitors to draw the remaining two games but there is no way the bowling can shape an Indian victory.

Yes, I am aware that this depressing scenario is nothing new. The bowling has been exposed time and again away from the designer pitches at home. But it has been a long time since the bowling was beaten black and blue to the extent it was savaged at Nottingham. The situation was bad enough at Lord's with England running up totals of 487 and 301 for six declared. But when England batsmen, not traditionally noted for their flair and adventurous spirit, rattle up 617 at the rate of more than four runs an over, it is time for an overhaul.

However, the problem is that like Mother Hubbard's cupboard, the bowling resources are bare. Replacing Harbhajan Singh with Anil Kumble (or vice versa) and bringing in Tinu Yohannan in place of Ajit Agarkar or Ashish Nehra is not going to improve matters. Anyone even remotely associated with Indian cricket is aware of this.

Realistically speaking, the options before the team management are virtually non-existent. The team will just have to soldier along with whatever resources they have and hope that the England batsmen play one daft shot after another, which in other words is like asking for the moon really. What is alarming is the fact that even among the bench strength at home, there does not seem to be a bowler promising enough to succeed at the highest level.

Virender Sehwag
© CricInfo
I had said in my preview for the Test that it was imperative that the batting, much the stronger of the two departments, should shoulder much of the responsibility. Happily, they rose to the occasion. One did see high-class batsmanship from Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly but then this is something they are capable of doing more often.

They did put the mediocre English bowling in its place and even though there was widespread criticism of the home side's strategy of going in with an all seam attack, I am convinced that playing Ashley Giles would not have made any difference to the final result. Agarkar seems to be finally coming into his own as a batsman and his belligerence made up for the failure temporarily one hopes - of VVS Laxman. But the batsmen's job is far from over. For obvious reasons, they will have to come up with a repeat performance at Headlingley and the Oval.

Parthiv Patel
© CricInfo
Yes, that little loophole at the top of the order continues to bedevil the Indians. The double failure of Wasim Jaffer is a cause for concern. Hopefully, the four-day match against Essex at Chelmsford, the only first-class fixture before the third Test at Headingley will give Shiv Sundar Das the opportunity to build his confidence. India would certainly welcome a revitalised Das for the diminutive opener has it in him to be a long-term prospect.

Parthiv Patel, meanwhile, is undoubtedly another long-term prospect. Grabbing the opportunity that the injury to Ajay Ratra gave him, the 17-year-old with the looks of a 13-year-old came good with both bat and gloves. Understandably nervous initially, he recovered his composure and his work behind the stumps gained in confidence during the extended England innings. His steely temperament was underlined by his gutsy show with the bat on the final day. The lad deserves all encouragement.