England v India, 2nd npower Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day August 1, 2011

Dhoni faces up to huge challenge


For the second successive Monday, England emerged the superior side. The more happy unit. The more confident team. India, the world's No. 1 Test side, were never able to entirely dominate on any of the nine playing days. In his three-year stint as Indian captain MS Dhoni has never lost two Tests in a row, nor have India lost a Test series. But now, Andrew Strauss's men are not only threatening to win the Pataudi Trophy, but also are marching towards the title of the best Test team in the world.

On evidence at Lord's and in these four days at Trent Bridge, Her Majesty's men might just be able to snatch the crown from India. As they have done over the past two years, England played like a domineering team. The depth in their batting, which Dhoni said he was envious about, plucked them out of a precarious position on the first day at Trent Bridge after they slipped to 124 for 8. The local boy Stuart Broad hit a steely half-century to guide England to a more respectable 221, 97 runs which "really mattered," according to Dhoni. On the second afternoon, Broad restricted India's lead to 67 with a fierce spell of seam bowling that included a hat-trick.

India needed quick wickets on the third day to keep alive the hope of levelling the series, but one by one, the England batsmen, toyed with the bowling. The Indian attack was down to three specialists as Harbhajan Singh bowled only 13.4 overs in the match due to a stomach muscle injury.

"I didn't have any tricks left," Dhoni said after the 319-run defeat. "I tried everything I had left. They bat quite deep, [James] Anderson is the only one who doesn't bat to some extent. They were eight down for 120 and were able to score 100 more runs (in the first innings). The bowlers tried what they could. We were not really successful and that happens in cricket."

Dhoni said he couldn't blame his bowling attack, especially the new-ball pair of Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar, who have now played five Tests since June 20. "Our bowlers were a bit tired. That was one of the reasons. Their batsmen played some big shots. Their mis-hits landed in between the fielders. The bowlers tried everything but nothing really went our way."

But the biggest concern for India is the failure of their esteemed batting order to construct big totals. In the last five Tests, India have crossed 300 only once, at Roseau in the third Test against West Indies. In England, their highest so far has been 288.

The most damning stat is the performance of the Indian lower order (last five batsmen) as compared to their English counterparts. The England lower order comprising Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Broad and Anderson faced 710 deliveries and lasted 1059 minutes over the two Tests, while the Indians could barely survive 356 balls spanning 487 minutes.

"It's important to put runs on the board and we are slightly lacking that. Right from the last series we played, we haven't scored consistently so that's also a bit of a concern," Dhoni said. "One of the big areas of concern is the lower-order; we haven't been able to see the second new ball through. Hopefully it will get better and we won't be exposed to the new ball."

Adding to India's batting problems was the fact the neither Suresh Raina nor Yuvraj Singh could respond convincingly to the short-ball strategy emplyed by the England fast bowlers. Both men had hit fighting half-centuries (Raina in the second innings at Lord's and Yuvraj in the first innings at Trent Bridge) but today they succumbed cheaply to short-pitched deliveries.

Dhoni, though, backed his batsmen and their technique against bouncers. "That's often said to us but there have been games when we've done well in Perth, Durban and Barbados. We will get caught out once in a while but most of the batsmen are used to the short-pitched stuff."

A lot was written about India's determination and their ability to bounce back after starting poorly in a series. Coming back from 2-0 down, could be the biggest test of Dhoni's captaincy. And for Duncan Fletcher, who is barely two months into the India coaching job. "We are very confident in the talent in the dressing room and we'll make the most of the next 10 days," Dhoni said. He will have some reinforcements for the third Test: Gautam Gambhir is certain to play, while Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag could also return.

Dhoni said India needed to remain mentally tough in the nine-day break before the Edgbaston Test. "When you play at the top level you face tough situations and this is one of those. And that is what you are supposed to do: have belief in yourself and the team, in what you do. We will definitely make it tough (for England)."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Monirul on August 3, 2011, 12:22 GMT

    I don't think that India is good team to grant Test status. Look at their statics for last 7 innings, they scored only once over 300 runs. If you consider our last 5 innings, nothing... ! But our players have able to past 300 mark 3 times out of last 7 innings with 419 at Dhaka & 382 at Lords against English bowlers. Haven't we made it large ? Alas ! Whole world saying ICC should revoke Test status of Bangladesh. But I don't know why they can't see India.

  • Shyam on August 3, 2011, 12:00 GMT

    I would wish Dhoni loose the toss and win the next two matches. Its hard for the team, when their main players fitness is questionable. But we know that we can come back stronger. I still have faith in this team. Remember still we are champions, lets show how hard we can hit back. Come on India!

  • Pudukkudi on August 3, 2011, 11:40 GMT

    @Kumar Menon, Well said. "IF MONEY IS LOST, NOTHING IS LOST. IF HONOUR IS LOST, SOMETHING IS LOST AND IF YOUR COURAGE IS LOST THEN EVERYTHING IS LOST". This Team seems to have Gained Money But have Lost both the "Honour of National Duty" and "Courage to overcome the odds". Being the highest paid bunch, they have to sweat out and not worry about anything else. Tendulkar is conscious about his "century of century". Which is taking a toll out of the teams batting depth. The opposition bowlers are being encouraged by this action. IT IS HIGH TIME HE PLAY FOR THE SAKE OF NATIONAL DUTY RATHER THAN HIS PERSONAL GLORY.

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2011, 10:39 GMT

    Mind of an Indian fans can comprehend only one thing, that is they are the best team in the world and there is no way anyone can beat them fairly. For team India to loose there has to be a player injured or the they have been screwed over by poor umpiring decisions. 1. India not being able to play their best team is only their fault, because to earn money in IPL is the first priority of the whole team rather then making themselves available for the test squad, hence the big injury list. 2. All teams suffer at the hands of umpire decisions, after all their human. And to counter the LBW problems there was this technology being used by the ICC, i wonder who apposed its use in this series. As far as the next match is concern, India will be back to its full strength. I can see England again thrashing team Inda, however rather then the match itself, i am more excited to see the excuse the Indian fans now come up with.

  • Shyam on August 3, 2011, 10:30 GMT

    @Shanmughan: Speaking about Talent alone without proper planning, preparation and outcome is useless. We are talented and we are No.1 in tests, ODI World Champs but we loose to England & WI (who are the at the bottom of the table in all formats and who are inexperienced.. but they are not rich.. they play cricket with spirit).

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2011, 9:47 GMT

    The main Culprit behind Indias heavy defeat is the B.C.C.I. Scheduling of cricket tours without any gap or time to recoup was the main reason behind Indias downfall.Formerly when a team visits England they land there in the last week of April and will play at least six first class matches before proceeding to the first test match on the first Thursday of june.This gives enough time to get well prepared.What to do now?Let us pray for more improved performance by our team in the remaining 2 test matches at least.

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2011, 8:14 GMT

    Total LACK OF COMMITMENT' and "DISRESPECT TOWARDS NATIONAL HONOUR" on the part of Indian Cricketers. The Board is also a part of it. It is high time BCCI is entrusted to abled-former Cricketers....Bid BYE to Aristrocrats and Bureaucrats in BCCI.

  • Kairavan on August 3, 2011, 8:03 GMT

    I had absolutely no knowledge that the England national team players need to play a minimum of 5 first class matches during every county season apart from appearing for the national team. This is really good & BCCI needs to imbibe similar rules for Indian cricketers during its domestic season. Pietersen is the biggest star of England national team yet he is required to play atleast 5 matches for his county team, whereas it has been ages since India's biggest star Tendulkar appeared for Mumbai Ranji team. I have never seen Harbhajan play for Punjab in the last 6-7 years while Yuvraj only plays sporadically for Punjab whenever he is dropped from the national team. No doubt it is a pathetic situation that has led Bhajji to forgot how to spin the ball in the longer formats of the game. What is BCCI doing ???

  • madan on August 3, 2011, 7:38 GMT

    Dhoni , come up in the batting order at no.4 ,i would like to change the batting order , in the third test. 1) gautham/mukund 2) shewag 3) dravid 4) dhoni 5) sachin 6) laxman 7) saha(WK) 8) zaheer 9) praveen 10) Ishanth 11)mishra. If the case gautam and shewag are fit , i would like to go with mukund a head of raina and yuvraj . and mukund at number 3 . if regular openers opens the innings (shewag and Gaumbhir) .Mukund at no three and dravid at four and dhoni at normal. but dhoni we want a century from you , your one of the great captain indians have , after kapil(1983 world cup ), ganguly , so you must come up with a century in third century.

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2011, 7:18 GMT

    stop blames to ms dhoni. he is best.. as you know... dhoni makes india is no. 1 team. this is a game.. dont worry we have chance 2 tests is pending.. so pls. wait...

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