England v India, 3rd Test, Edgbaston, 4th day August 13, 2011

Dhoni calm amid the storm

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At the end of it all, MS Dhoni's smile was intact. India had lost the third Test, their third in three weeks by a massive margin; England had grabbed the No.1 Test ranking by inflicting on India their largest margin of defeat since the turn of the millennium; and Dhoni himself had suffered his first series loss as captain. Yet he kept his emotions in check. With a gentle smile he ventured into the inquest, launched by a media contingent that sounded more concerned than him about India's drop to No.2 and the threat of slipping further in the event of a loss at The Oval in the next Test.

"The series never really went our way," Dhoni said. "If you see, most of the sessions were won by them. If you divide the Tests into small sessions, more often than not we were outplayed in both the bowling and batting departments."

India have so far won just six sessions: two at Lord's and four at Trent Bridge. At Edgbaston, the gulf between the two sides was further exposed when the India batsmen failed to total 500 runs in two innings, playing an aggregate of 117.5 overs. Alastair Cook, the Man of the Match, alone played a ball short of 91 overs. If England's metronomic bowling attack embarrassed the world's best batting order, India's tired bowlers struggled miserably, fetching just seven wickets in this Test.

"You have to be at your best when you are playing top nations. Our batting department didn't click the way it should have. We were not able to put par-plus runs on the board," Dhoni said of the batting failure. He was India's best batsman in the Test and the only one to score a half-century in each innings. In contrast, England had two centurions and four others who went past the 50-mark.

After India had been bundled out for 224 on the first day, Duncan Fletcher said, somewhat surprisingly, he had never witnessed such "swinging and seaming" conditions in England. Eyebrows rolled immediately, and further proof of Fletcher's remarkable statement was highlighted when Tim Bresnan claimed the conditions were hardly in favour of bowlers unlike in Nottingham during the second Test. If anything, India have failed to withstand the pressure mounted by a bowling attack that has slipped into accuracy mode without any warm-up balls or spells. A perfect example has been James Anderson so often picking up a wicket almost immediately into his opening spells.

"I can't exactly pinpoint the reason like this is what went wrong because if it was so easy then we would have fixed it," Dhoni said of his batsmen's woes against swing.

Both Dhoni and Fletcher have strongly defended their batsmen, but the view that it's the right time to blood youngsters in the middle order and look to the future is gaining momentum. Of the top six in the Indian batting order only Rahul Dravid has been consistent and is the lone centurion with determined hundreds in the first two Tests. Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman have scored 159 and 156 runs respectively. Suresh Raina excelled in the second innings at Lord's but has disappointed thereafter. India have not been able to get good starts, their best opening alliance being 63, between Gautam Gambhir and Abhinav Mukund in the first innings at Lord's.

Asked if the spotlight was now on the seniors, Dhoni cast aside doubts of benching or forcing any of the big three to retire. "Six months back also they were part of the side. By losing one series we shouldn't get critical about them," Dhoni said, reminding the media that the same batsmen were successful till the last Test series India played in South Africa. "What you need is youngsters to come in and score runs and displace someone at the top. I think this is the best team that we had. If you take out the injury aspect, I believe this was the best team selected. And in Test cricket age doesn't really matter, it's the performance that matters."

Dhoni also defended his bowling attack, whose inability to take 20 wickets in a match has been questioned time and again in the absence of the injured Zaheer Khan. "The pressure kept mounting on us. Once you start the series and if you are not able to get the opposition out and then you have one bowler less, it keeps mounting as the series progresses. Not to forget England, they are a very good side and throughout the series they have done well."

Moving on, do India now have the resilience to stand up, having been flattened thrice to the mat? "Why not?," Dhoni shot back. "We are very optimistic about it. We need to forget about the last three games in the sense you know, try to make the most out of the fourth one. Take it as a one-Test series, so that you don't have the burden of the last three Test matches you have played."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Pankaj_INDIA on August 16, 2011, 17:57 GMT

    @CandidIndian: hats off to your knowledge and love for cricket mate.. thats why India rules cricket...:)

  • LokuMahaththaya on August 16, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    C'mon England get Dhoni out, that is a must.... it's a shame to cricket to have a baseball player 70 n.o. when all the classy players are out, in a test match!!

  • Pankaj_INDIA on August 16, 2011, 15:19 GMT

    @valavan: Mr, if only you had bothered to read my comments properly u would have understood what i was saying.when i say "glory", it doesnt always have to be test series. victories in aus is VB series, in england 2007 test series, nz ODi and test series, srilanka ODi series twice bak to bak, WI jus smtime bak. even if dravid was captain in eng 2007, what i am talking is these players are very best. i want just talking about MSD as captain. and whichever country u r from, better concentrate on ur cricket, we indians are sufficient to take care of our cricket, both emotionally and FINANCIALLY... HAHA

  • siddhant328 on August 16, 2011, 15:09 GMT

    Two M S. Both under scanner. Both leaders. Mahendra Singh and Manmohan Singh.

  • CandidIndian on August 16, 2011, 14:25 GMT

    Valavan -I referred about test series only in my post directed to you,when did i mention that Dhoni is as good as Pontng or any other cricket legend, you are writing things which are not there,in case you dont know every Indian fan is not the same, i have congratulated England fans many times .I was suggesting to keep down the arrogance ,as many Indian fans did the same when India was no 1 and they are in embarrassing position now.After decline of Aussies SA became no 1 for 104 days,followed by India for 20 months,England were not even in picture that time.Winning everything at home and Ashes has led you guys to no1,lets see if England can win against SA followed by India next year.I last saw England playing in India when they could not defend 387 on a rank turner.This is an Indian article naturally people will support their team, who are you to say that its nonsense? so much nonsense English fans have written against India what about that?

  • CandidIndian on August 16, 2011, 14:22 GMT

    Valavan -I referred about test series only in my post directed to you,when did i mention that Dhoni is as good as Pontng or any other cricket legend, you are writing things which are not there,in case you dont know every Indian fan is not the same, i have congratulated England fans many times .I was suggesting to keep down the arrogance ,as many Indian fans did the same when India was no 1 and they are in embarrassing position now.After decline of Aussies SA became no 1 for 104 days,followed by India for 20 months,England were not even in picture that time.Winning everything at home and Ashes has led you guys to no1,lets see if England can win against SA followed by India next year.I last saw England playing in India when they could not defend 387 on a rank turner.This is an Indian article naturally people will support their team, who are you to say that its nonsense? so much nonsense English fans have written against India what about that?

  • kumarcoolbuddy on August 16, 2011, 14:05 GMT

    @Valavan, at the same time how old Swann will be by the time ENG tours India? How old will be your top batsmen and bowlers by that time? Even Ian Botham was very. happy seeing injuries of India in first and 2nd test and he was happy that ENG can beat depleted team. Now you also proved that ENG will be happy only fighting with depleted team. In fact ENG beat AUS in AUS when AUS was in transition state where as India, when toured AUS, was almost winning the series against strongest AUS team. So what is proven from this about ENG? ENG cannot win against a team which is not strong.

  • Valavan on August 16, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    When England will travel to India, Dravid and tendulkar will be 40 if they remain to be in team with Laxman in 39 and Zaheer khan will be 35. We will be ready for any challenge you impose on us.

  • CandidIndian on August 16, 2011, 12:43 GMT

    koldmeat-Half knowledge is dangerous mate,since you mentioned world cup,India won its first world cup in England a, they reached WC final in SA and won t20 world cup in SA all these places are not in India.If you want to make recent comparisons about Pak and India when they tour, with mighty bowling attack Pak team were whitewashed in Aus, at-least India managed to win one test match at Perth with so called weak bowling attack.So we performed much better than Pak, recent WI tour , Pak barely drew thew series 1-1 , India won it 1-0.With whatever resources we have we perform much better than Pak team when we tour.Since 2007, atleast India have won series in England , with 1-1 in SA and 2-1 in Aus .Tell me which top team Pak has beaten while touring in these last 4 years except NZ?3-0 in Aus, 3-1 in England, also you could not beat even weak WI side.India has performed poor in this tour, your team has been consistently poor against top teams whether its in Asia or outside Asia.

  • aarpee2 on August 16, 2011, 12:26 GMT

    Bruised in the first,battered in the second and thrashed in the third -Dhoni is guilty of making a molehill of a mountain.As for Srikanth views on the tour ,the less said the better as he is passing the buck..England had also thrashed Australia 3-1 on their ashes tour of down under-all 3 by an innings.There are serious and larger questions on preparation,selection and fitness that need to be addressed and decisions made quickly if we do not wish to slide to number4 or 5 soon.Hopefully we will see some movement forward on these issues before the team leaves for Australia in December

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