England v India, 4th Investec Test, Old Trafford, 3rd day August 9, 2014

Nothing quite right with this India

Little things, big things, everything went wrong for India at Old Trafford, in what was one of their two meekest Test performances since 8-0 - the other came just a few days ago, in Southampton

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Dravid: A bizarre session from India

Two sessions of rain. No Stuart Broad in the second innings. Lost inside three days. Eighty-nine overs and four balls of batting over two innings. Twelve wickets for 168 runs to Moeen Ali's part-time spin over two matches. Orphaned catches between wicketkeeper and slip. Long-on for the first ball No. 7 faces. No idea about which bowler should be bowling when. Easy run-out missed. Soft run-out conceded. Hurricane headed this way, for crying out loud. No one told the team. Best batsman refusing to correct weakness. Opener who has scored no century in three years picked without having done anything to suggest he has become better. Top order found out by extra pace and bounce in the pitch. Ravindra Jadeja batting ahead of R Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Selection of Pankaj Singh, who was desperately unlucky in Southampton, but does not bowl enough good balls for a man his pace. Everything has gone wrong for India. Lord's seems like it happened two years ago.

The cost of Lord's: an injured Ishant Sharma, a drop in Bhuvneshwar's intensity, a slightly less circumspect M Vijay and, as MS Dhoni mentioned, a camouflaging of the top order's shortcomings because the lower order had contributed.

Australia will be taking note: give them quick pitches. They played well on the seaming beast that was Lord's. No need for grass; their put-it-there bowlers get in the game that way. But on the quickest pitch they might have encountered - with the exception of the WACA in 2011-12 and the Wanderers late last year - their batsmen's disciplines went out of the window.

Leaving the ball wasn't so easy here. And if you have to play, you can't push meekly away from the body. Either drive and punch, or leave them. If you defend length balls, you move fully forward. Vijay couldn't here. The balls were quick and bouncing from a length. They were only getting half-forward in defence, Sourav Ganguly noted on day one.

Gautam Gambhir was a poor choice in the XVIII, leave alone the XI. His game has regressed, leave alone any signs of improvement. In the first innings he edged a straight ball that bounced a little extra. In the second he gloved a loopy short ball down leg. Cheteshwar Pujara is almost the opener. Why not just make him open if Shikhar Dhawan and Gambhir are going to be walking wickets? Well, his back foot has not been moving across. In the first innings he tried an uncharacteristically expansive drive away from the body. England do not have Dhawan and Jadeja behind the wicket; they are taking their catches.

Virat Kohli has a problem outside off - every batsman does, but his has persisted for too long. It is getting exposed brutally on a long tour. In South Africa, where he played well, he was not playing at deliveries that have been getting him out here. Look at the two balls Kohli faced before he got out in the second innings. Short of a length, wide, but he still followed them with no intent of hitting them for fours. Nothing can be gained from these tendencies. You'll either edge them or block them back to the bowler or cover. Before the match he spent a lot of time working on his sweep. Go figure.

Ajikya Rahane was probably due a failure, but he played a poor shot minutes before lunch on the first morning. Dhoni might have played one of his best overseas knocks in a Test away from home, but his wicketkeeping and his captaincy are slipping further. He cannot continue to not go for catches that arrive between him and first slip. On the third morning, with new ball nine overs away, it seemed he wanted to keep Varun Aaron fresh for it. Pankaj Singh began well, got into a rhythm, but was removed two overs into the spell. On came Aaron. Neither here nor there. In Southampton, in the second session on the second day, bowlers bowled one-over spells for one hour. This is not one-day cricket.

On day two here, just before lunch, R Ashwin had got into good rhythm, flighting his offbreaks, staying away from funky variations, having batsmen play in front of their bodies, but when Jos Buttler arrived, mid-on went back to the fence. Fifteen minutes before lunch. Nine of the 31 runs that came before lunch in that period came through singles down the ground. That's how games drift.

To pick on little things when the main batsmen are looking more likely to get out than the lower order will sound a little strange, but it's the little things that are hurting India. The discipline and the bloody-mindedness of Lord's have evaporated. Batsmen got starts in Southampton, and gave them away. At Lord's, Dhoni took the game by the scruff of its neck; in Southampton he started playing for a draw in the second session of the first day. Chris Woakes' first ball after James Anderson finished his spell today didn't get Vijay out, but it represented a similar letting down of the guard as in Southampton. There he was run out being dopey; here he pushed at what might have been a one-day wide.

During the 8-0 in 2011 and 2012, Dhoni was asked more than once if the leaders of the team ever lost their cool and gave the team a rocket, and Dhoni always said there was nothing to be gained by that. It was a different team, with seniors who were supposed to know their responsibilities. He might want to blow a lid now. This has got to be more frustrating. England were 1-0 down, but India have played two of their meekest Tests since that horror run three years ago to squander this opportunity. Old Trafford might get flooded tomorrow, but it won't help India. Lord's seems like it happened two years ago.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 12, 2014, 23:48 GMT

    I know whats wrong with the batting - Indian batting used to be dominated by the disciplined technicians from the South ( if u incude mumbai in the south) . Look at the batting now .. its dominaed by the North :) .... discipline is not a virtue you associate with the North :) ..no moe comments .

  • Nishanth on August 12, 2014, 12:59 GMT

    Unfortunately nothing will change in Indian Cricket unless we adopt selection policies similar to Australia.

    Virat Kohli & Cheteshwar Pujara will certainly play the next test match. Irrespective of how the fare in the match, they will remain part of the Indian Test squad to Australia ( They have few test matches against West Indies at home to let the experts opine about them being ideal successors for Dravid & Sachin)

    India had gone into the first two test match of the series with 5 bowlers banking on the ability of their batting superstars. Thankfully, good contributions with the bat from the bowlers ensured that much damage was not done.

    Irrespective of the reputation team should be selected based on performance.

    My XI for the next test match

    1) Vijay 2) Dhawan 3) Pujara 4) Rahane 5) Rohit 6) Ohja 7) Dhoni 8) Ashwin 9) Bhuvi 10) Aron 11) Pandey

  • R on August 12, 2014, 11:07 GMT

    Dhoni's keeping as become suspect. However, he can still play as a pure batsman. Why not have Naman Oza to keep wickets? It is worth giving Dhawan another shot - he can take apart the attack and should be told to play himself in & then play his aggresive game. He can be told to play out 10 overs and then open out. Sehwag did this very effectively and Srikkanth in the 1980s. Dhawan's presence means Vijay plays the blocker & not the attcker and this worked well at the begining of the series.Jadeja serves no purpose and should be make a good 12th man as he is a reasonably good fielder. The line up at Oval can be Vijay,Dhawan,Pujara,Kohli,Rahane,Dhoni,Oza,Ashwin,Bhuvi, Ishaant & Aaron.

  • David on August 12, 2014, 10:59 GMT

    Brilliant as he once was for England, I've just never felt the ageing Duncan Fletcher was a good choice of coach for India. His last couple of years with England left him bruised and bitter and I think some of that attitude has been evident in his Indian role. So often in the past 3 years India have let themselves down with an approach which has been unfathomably cautious and inflexible. Even before Southampton, they seemed to set out to play for a draw (packing their side with batters, not bothering to pick a proper bowling attack) - and as soon as you start doing that in the modern game, you usually lose. They appear too regimented in their approach to have worked out a technique against the improving (but hardly world-beating) Ali. They also always seem to completely fall apart when they come up against it in a series, in a way they never did during the 2000s. It's time to give Fletcher a place and a pension, and to get a younger, more positive and lateral-thinking coach in.

  • Akshay on August 12, 2014, 10:58 GMT

    The Kohli conundrum is continuing to worry. Let's admit that he's not in fine nick and needs some serious talking to be done. You cannot leave him aside and let him handle on his own. The great Sachin left the cover drive out of his books when he made 241 in Sydney. Kohli can't think of aping Sachin and not play on the off side, a weakness beautifully augmented by Jimmy. To think of how England have planned on taking out India's best batsman is marvelous. India too did the same with keeping Cook and Bell quiet. In their own failure, their plans went Hayward and England's top men are back to the top seat. Pujara has been the biggest disappointment of the series. A man with Technical brilliance , capable to play the new ball when asked and also drop the sheet anchor role and also looking at the way he handled Steyn and co, Lack of form is too easy a phrase. India need runs, need centuries, need partnerships. They don't have to treat the pitch as dangerous nor treat Moeen Ali as a demon.

  • TR on August 12, 2014, 3:17 GMT

    There is a feeling that there is no alternative captain for India. But thats how it will be whenever we need to change to new captain. We wont have confidence until we try and succeed. So who can be the next captain? At least as an interim attempt? Not some one who cant even find his place in the playing 11. IMO the captain should understand both bowling and batting techniques. And he should be very sensible and level headed. He does not have be a great player. I think Ashwin understands both bowling & batting. He may not be great in anything. But he is very level headed and loves challenges. Rahane & Vijay could be other possibilities but since they dont expose themselves to the media I dont know about their bowling knowledge and communication skills. One thing for sure. Dhoni cant continue - either as captain or as wicket keeper. Saha is the best keeper and he has proven his batting skills as well.

  • Dummy4 on August 11, 2014, 17:50 GMT

    Now every one comes to know about kohli what he is capable of outside India when the ball starts swinging, he is facing the real soup. Only becaz of this reason we are not going outside India. We need to revamp the current team and rebuild the test team with real talents excluding the political influences and people having influence in the management. We see many real talents in Australia, they will fail initially but can perform better than the current Indian team. Current Indian team is not capable of scoring runs and not capable of facing too many deliveries in test which is very bad. We should consider open new opportunities for test.

  • Ajay on August 11, 2014, 14:28 GMT

    Winning and losing are part of the game. But it is high time and in fact a good opportunity for the India selectors to show some spine and smarts by taking some tough decisions - bring in Naman, Irfan and Yadav in place of Gambhir, Jadeja and Pankaj resp. Aaron was a little wayward at times but it was clear that his pace allowed him to trouble the English batsmen. Hence, Yadav would be a fine addition. It is almost unthinkable to have a resource like him wasted while the slow-medium likes of Pankaj and Binny are handed out chances esp in English conditions. Teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka would jump at the first opportunity to fully utilize a bowler like Yadav. The suggested team (in batting order): Rahane, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, Naman, Dhoni, Ashwin, Irfan, Bhuvi, Yadav, Aaron

  • Noor on August 11, 2014, 13:14 GMT

    My Word begin of the Series Kohli & Pujar can't do any thing to hurt English Team. Drop Kohli, Pujara & Gambhir - GET Naman Ojah, VIRU, Herbhajji - They are the most capable of Subcontinatal. Even They both can't do any thing in Australia either. Please drop them - and Get Naman Ojah, Viru, Bhajji.

  • Nish on August 11, 2014, 12:16 GMT

    Looks many Indian fans want to a selector & many don't seem to even want to move forwards - calling for a recall for the likes of Bhajji, Sehwag, Zaheer etc who were all failing badly in recent years, were still persisted with due to pure sentiment before being eventually dropped & rightly so. Even SRT should have been dropped ages before he retired. Gambhir should have NEVER been recalled for this tour & his shortcomings were brutally exposed in this last Test.We should reserve judgement on Ashwin as he didn't get a chance at all to bowl on a 2nd innings deteriorating wicket. As for Kohli, Pujara etc, let's not forget these guys did very well in SA not long back against the likes of Morkel, Steyn etc - so it is not as if they are poor players but just going through a bad phase in form as happens to every player. MSD certainly needs to go after this series & just be able to concentrate on limited over cricket.