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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
Sidharth Monga at Old Trafford
August 9, 2014
Highlights: India's incredible slide
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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Sidharth Monga
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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