England v India, 5th Investec Test, The Oval August 14, 2014

More questions than answers for India

MS Dhoni maintains that India have made progress in England and will continue to focus on processes rather than results. But they might ask 'Did we give it our all?' at the end of the Oval Test
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'Process more important than result' - Dhoni

The Oval on a sunny day can be a welcoming place to be. There is a general air of friendliness around. It seems within reach of travellers. Unlike Lord's, its brow is not high. You can enter from any gate. It used to be a quick pitch but has now become slow. Often two spinners can play here. There is no side ground so the practice pitches are on the main square, which means abrasiveness and reverse swing. Not when it rains, though. It can be cold, dank, and prompt people to call it ugly.

It rained when India arrived for their pre-Test training. Rain has not been India's friend on this trip. It has brought India reminders of missed opportunities. After Old Trafford, which India lost in three days, it rained for a day and a half, telling them if they had batted for another hour, they might well have saved the match. Here, India had three possible days of training before the Oval Test. The team missed one together as a unit, MS Dhoni stayed away from the second. He went to a firing range instead. And it rained the only time India's No. 6 might have got to bat before the Test.

The Oval usually hosts the last Test of a series, bringing a general wistfulness which is compounded on rainy days. If you are trailing after having led in the series, like India are, you tend to look back more than ahead. Did we give it our all? Did we get desperate enough? Did we overstep any lines? Did we under-step any? What else could have we done? You don't want to leave with a feeling you could have done things differently.

Dhoni is not likely to think about all that. He says he likes to stay in the moment. Being able to draw a Test each in South Africa and New Zealand, he says, was a step in the right direction. A five-match series is foreign territory for every player in this team, so it is natural that that one win at Lord's might be considered another step in the right direction. Even after Old Trafford he said he was happy with the team's progress. Hopefully that is just for a feel-good façade for the public. For there have been problems of technique, of temperament, and of strategy that have led to this stage.

Not enough for desperation, says Dhoni. The openers are going to remain even though India have yet to add 50 for the first wicket since the start of South Africa tour late last year. "We will have to see whether that [extra] middle-order batsman has really contributed," Dhoni said. "We have played quite a few matches with five bowlers, which means he hasn't got much opportunity so all of a sudden in a big game to come with an application like that will have its own consequences.

"The big factor in not having big opening partnerships is that you expose the No. 3 batsman, irrespective of whether No. 1 or 2 gets out. And [Cheteshwar] Pujara has to face that pressure. He is always batting close to the third, fourth or fifth over, so he gets more pressure. But he is also getting more chances of facing the challenges in such conditions so it will only improve him."

The process continues to remain more important than results. "It's never that the result is more important than the process," Dhoni said. "It is always the process that will be the key because it puts less pressure on the team. As you said, rightly, it is an important Test match but at the same time still it is the breaking up of the sessions that matters because that will give us an advantage. So we will still be looking more into the process than the result."

India have chosen to trust what they have been doing over the Investec series. They will be pleased Ishant Sharma is fit. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, though, has been bowled into the ground. Stuart Binny could come in amid talks of a damp pitch, but India surely have to question this policy of playing a bits-and-pieces player. In three of the four Tests, India have gone in with five "bowlers" but at least one of them has always been neglected.

It was a bold move, but bits-and-pieces is not working. Yet, either Binny or Ravindra Jadeja are all set to play. An outsider might legitimately ask the question: do they care enough to revisit and reassess their plans and their openers, or put in extra hard work in the nets, or is one Test win - a significant improvement on previous tours - satisfying enough for them?

As India waited in vain for the rain to stop - some of them had a hit in the indoor nets - Ramesh Mane, their masseur and general good old man in the team, was seen sticking images of gods and chants in the dressing room. He always does that, and also plays devotional music before the start of matches. There is not much in his hands, though, apart from the massages. Hopefully the rest of the team, who have a more direct bearing on the result, are not thinking like him.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Alexk400 on August 15, 2014, 10:58 GMT

    When you run out of answer , what will you say ? Process is important. If there is a scapegoat , what will you say? He did it. Last trip , it was senior's fault. This time he can't hide anywhere , all players are his favourites and handpicked. So dhoni will say lets do process hope we get lucky. India will lose this test again. No question in my mind. Have fun all. Dhoni should retire from TEST after this series. Mainly because he has nothing to offer to a TEST side. His contribution is next to nothing. Even players are not get inspired because he does nothing. If you keep on preaching and you do not produce people will start listening to him. He is still KING of ODI game though.

  • dummy4fb on August 15, 2014, 10:25 GMT

    no rohit sharma in 11...shocked !!!

  • Indian_1982 on August 15, 2014, 9:11 GMT

    Its disgusting to hear this word "PROCESS" from Dhoni time and again. Wonder whether our team follows the same "PROCESS" every single time despite repeated failures, or whether it simply fails irrespective of the "PROCESS" it follows. The "PROCESS" of implementing the "PROCESS" is definitely not working for Team India. I wish Dhoni/Fletcher's system could "PROCESS" this piece of data accurately sooner rather than later.

  • Mike_Tyson on August 15, 2014, 8:16 GMT

    @Nutcutlet - Spot on comment, however the Indian teamatleast owes it to their fans to show a bit of fight. Something that has been missing I would say on all overseas tours since 2011.

    @landl47 - Again spot on comment and again I would say as abve the Indian side owe their fans bit of fight. Eng are a better team no doubt, however the India side coame over with some very talented young players who have all got starts in this series yet hardly any have gone on to make the big score and give their fans something to cheer about. Their performance in the last test was shocking and there is no excuse for it. Ofcourse this si not Englands prolem however lookingat it from an Indian view, surely they can show a bit of fight?

  • sammysam on August 15, 2014, 7:40 GMT

    The process continues to remain more important than results. The only process MSD knows is how to lose overseas test matches. No amount of wins at home can cover their dismal displays abroad. For MSD to say The process continues to remain more important than results proves he is not capable of being a test captain let alone a test player. A more hungry captain will be all about the results. Has anyone told MSD that If you go for the right results the processes will take care of themselves.

  • dummy4fb on August 15, 2014, 7:13 GMT

    Three case-lets on PROCESS:

    1. A student followed all the processes of studying, as prescribed by his teachers. But failed the exams. He just didn't have the stuff!

    2. A teenager followed all the processes of wooing a girl. But she din't show any response. He wasn't good enough for her.

    3. A surgeon came out of the operation theater and announced quite clinically, "The operation was successful, but the patient died".

    As a management teacher, I had followed the case method of learning propagated by my Alma Mater HBS, quite successfully for several decades. I suggest Dhoni & Fletcher may try to use these nano case-lets for discussion in their team meetings. Best of luck. :-)

  • satishsasikumar on August 15, 2014, 7:07 GMT

    Wrong selection of players for different conditions, under-utilization of certain players under specific conditions/sessions of game, poor captaincy, batting and fielding..could any team win with glaring problems! I doubt!

  • Nutcutlet on August 15, 2014, 6:56 GMT

    Does anyone really take MSD's public utterances seriously? He comes out with any old guff to satisfy the media who - unbelievably and collectively - do take him at his word. He truly knows that India have scarcely turned up (exc. at Lord's when England gifted the game to India). This was India's big chance to get a very rare series win outside India (after all, Sri Lanka had managed it!). Thus, his statement after Old Trafford that he was happy with the team's progress must be regarded as disingenuous. It is disappointing, but it is honest in one respect: its subtext. That reads (for those who missed it): I don't much care about TC and my side isn't much committed either. We like short format cricket where we get paid extremely well, especially for the IPL. If you expect me to say anything critical about my team (apart from in the most general & gentle terms) then you're not going to get it. Our masters (the BCCI) could care less either. That's why I'm captain. Goodnight. Pls publish.

  • dummy4fb on August 15, 2014, 6:55 GMT

    Where is Naman Ojha ? Dhoni is ruining other Wicketkeepers Career

  • dummy4fb on August 15, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    Where is Naman Ojha ? Dhoni is ruining other Wicketkeepers Career

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