Gambhir looks for repeat of Napier
India could not have sent a more honest man than Gautam Gambhir to face the media on a day like this. It was a day when Alastair Cook and the England middle order sent India on a leather hunt to all corners of Edgbaston; a day when the India bowlers walked around like parched and lost men in a desert; a day when India's fielders acted like they were tired commuters waiting in the bus queue. It was only apt then that Gambhir, one of the most proud and passionate of cricketers, walked up, sat down and admitted, chin-up, that India were under pressure and England had control of the match.
"I will not lie. We are under a lot of pressure. England hold the upper hand," Gambhir said. "We have just not been able to live up to expectations or the reputation we have. We have not played good, smart cricket and we take responsibility as a team."
On Wednesday, a huge spiral of smoke gushed out of one corner of Birmingham, evidence that the vandalism and riots that have crippled normal life in several parts of England were still affecting the city. In the evening, the police shut the main roads leading in and out of the city. Just as the common man made a tentative start to the day on Thursday, India started the second day at Edgbaston circumspect, were steadily getting back to breathing easy, but then suddenly lost patience to end the day on a sombre note.
Thursday morning was dark and overcast, and it was drizzling. India would have wished the clouds had not vanished. The game was delayed by just half an hour as the rain disappeared; for the rest of the day the English crowds celebrated the sunshine, and watched Alastair Cook and Co. dish out a sumptuous display of batting. Praveen Kumar showed a lot of heart to lead the Indian attack, but with Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth and Amit Mishra looking out of sorts, an emboldened England strengthened their grip on the series.
Adding to India's woes was some casual fielding, with four chances missed. Rahul Dravid managed to let two slip through his usually secure hands while Sreesanth let one go at point off Eoin Morgan. Alastair Cook was given a reprieve when on 165, by Sachin Tendulkar at mid-on. Tendulkar failed to notice that a loopy leading edge was heading towards him and let the ball drop just a few metres in front of him. The ground fielding was poor too, typified by Virender Sehwag's reluctance to bend and interrupt a couple of drives, which fetched England some easy runs.
"There are no excuses. It is a matter of concentration," Gambhir said, before defending his fielders. "All teams drop catches; these things happen in cricket but I can't tell you exactly why it is happening." Was this really the response you would expect from a member of the reigning No.1 Test team and the freshly-crowned World Champions?
Through the series, Indian supporters have been waiting for the resilience MS Dhoni's team has shown in the past to make an appearance. There was a glimpse of it on the first day at Trent Bridge when India seem to have cast aside the disappointment of Lord's to have England reeling at 124 for 8 at tea. But Stuart Broad added 97 runs with the last two wickets to pull England back into the match. India lost the momentum quickly and lost the match.
Gambhir went back to that first day in Trent Bridge as an example of how India have not taken their opportunities in this series. "We need to give credit to England. They are playing some good cricket and they have always taken the initiative in this series. We have not been able to take our chances. At Trent Bridge England were 124 for 8, but we did not take that chance."
Gambhir was not embarrassed to cite England's performance in this series as a good example to learn from. He said if he and the other India batsmen had managed to play with the same determination with which Cook and Strauss played on the second morning at Edgbaston, India would not have been in the difficult position they are now. "You need to work hard in the first session of the first day of a Test match. If we had survived that extra half an hour before lunch yesterday, things would have been different. Alastair Cook batted brilliantly, showing a lot of grit, determination and patience. This is what Test cricket is about: once you are in try to make as many runs as possible.
"England have a good attack but we have played good attacks before. South Africa had an equally good attack. The only difference there was we converted the starts into big hundreds. England have not let us off the hook and they have bowled well as a unit. That is what good teams do: try to put the opposition under pressure all the time. "
Despite their desperate position in the match, Gambhir said, India are not losing heart. He said they had shown character whenever they were in a critical situation in the last 24 months. India's batsmen have managed to come to the team's rescue on more than one occasion in the recent past, and they have done it by converting starts into big, purposeful centuries. One fine example was Gambhir's own marathon 137 that lasted seventeen minutes short of eleven hours and saved India from defeat in Napier, in hostile and swinging conditions two years ago.
India find themselves in need of another show of such resolve and Gambhir said he is ready to stand strong. "We need to play good cricket and show some grit and fight. We have done it in the past. Napier is something from where we can take a lot of inspiration; we had to bat for two-and-a-half days and we managed to do that."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo