Ishant ruled out of fourth Test, Bhuvneshwar worry
The five-Test series is taking its toll on India. Ishant Sharma is all set to miss his second Test, Wriddhiman Saha has gone home with an injury, but another big concern is a swelling on Bhuvneshwar Kumar's ankle.
The India team played a long match of football after their defeat in Southampton, an activity India hardly miss on their playing or training days. Bhuvneshwar and Ishant, though, watched from their balcony. However, at the moment, the team has not considered this serious enough to ask for a replacement. They are hopeful Bhuvneshwar will be available for the fourth Test, and Ishant for the fifth.
MS Dhoni agreed the work out in the first two Tests showed in Bhuvneshwar's bowling. "I think, Bhuvi seemed to be a bit tired," Dhoni said. "But he came back nicely after that first spell. But I thought he was slightly on the shorter side. He got the right length in the first two Tests, but here he was slightly short. Apart from that I am quite happy with the effort put in by fast bowlers. It was a different kind of wicket, where you have to hit the deck hard to get some purchase. That's where I found Pankaj very impressive. He is a tall guy and got fair amount of bounce and was unlucky not to get a few wickets. Overall I am happy with him."
Dhoni revealed after India's heavy defeat that Sharma will not be fit in time for the fourth Test, which begins on August 7 at Old Trafford. "Definitely he won't be fit for the next game," Dhoni said during the post-match presentation at the Ageas Bowl. "Never really had a discussion with our physio, but as of now he won't be available for the fourth Test match."
India had been forced to leave Ishant out of the third Test at the Ageas Bowl after he suffered what the team management described as a "sore leg". Ishant, who took a match-winning seven-wicket haul in the final innings of the Lord's Test, was replaced by Pankaj Singh, who went wicketless on his Test debut at Southampton.
England wrapped up a 266-run win in the first session of the fifth day, with India adding only 66 to their overnight total for the loss of their last six wickets. Moeen Ali, the offspinning allrounder, picked up a six-wicket haul. Dhoni said India didn't bat with the right approach against Moeen.
"I don't think we played good cricket over here but at the same time I think we played the fast bowlers well," Dhoni said. "Moeen I think he bowled well, but still we let him bowl well. It is very important to be positive against the spinner, especially when there is not much on offer. I think he bowled very good lines. If you keep defending, one odd ball will turn because there is considerable amount of wear and tear on the wicket."
Moeen took two wickets in the first innings as well, when Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane lost their wickets going for aggressive shots. This, Dhoni said, was a crucial phase in the match that India slipped up in.
"There were quite a few [soft dismissals], the phase where Jinks [Rahane] got out, a couple of other wickets that fell, that really had a big impact on the game. It was not only that half an hour, I think even last night, the last session really had a big impact on the game because we lost quite a few wickets, and quite a few of them were quite soft dismissals, and if we were in a good position last night, not losing those two or three wickets, definitely then you look at it in a different way."
Having gone into the first two Tests with five bowlers, India reverted to their usual strategy of six specialist batsmen and four specialist bowlers, with Stuart Binny making way for Rohit Sharma.
"The reason was we never used the fifth bowler, so we thought maybe we'll be able to use the batsmen who can bowl a bit if needed," Dhoni said, when asked about the selection call. "We just bowled that fifth bowler for eight overs or ten overs so I thought with Shikhar [Dhawan] and Vijay and Rohit being around, we can use that fifth bowler.
"It is not only that, I think once we got in with the four specialist bowlers I still think we need to get a bit more patient on wickets like these where there's not plenty to offer for the fast bowlers. We have to be consistent with our lines and lengths, and be a bit boring at times, hit the fourth stump mark consistently and ask the batsman to come and drive."
Asked whether India had the resources to bounce back from the defeat, Dhoni said they did, provided they played more positively.
"Definitely, when it comes to the talent part, yes. It will just be the mental approach, to be a bit more positive when it is in your areas, go ahead with your shot even if you get out playing that shot, back yourself because at the end of the day, what cricket really is is about the amount of runs you score and the wickets you take. You don't have to survive for long if you are scoring quickly."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo