Spirit departs sorry India
Capital punishment is rare in India, with only four executions by the state since 1995. It has, rightly, stopped being a public spectacle. Yet, if you still want to see what people walking to the gallows look like, look no further than India's last day of the series. The Oval is infamous for its pigeons. On the first day, MS Dhoni tried to shoo them away with his bat, from close range, but they would not budge. Even they didn't come to watch on Sunday. They must have been bored by the mismatch. They wouldn't have had the heart to watch the final execution of India's spirit in all its gore.
On the final day, they conceded 101 runs in 11.3 overs and then got bowled out in 29.2 overs. There were players trying to prove their performances earlier in the series were no fluke. There were players fighting for their places in the side. There were players who had to prove their reputations had been well-earned. Yet, confusion, meekness and poor cricket reigned.
How they got out was merely details, but even the incredibly generous appraisers in the India team and the board will be aghast at Gautam Gambhir's dismissal. To get him back in the squad was a regressive move in the first place. To play him in the XI more so. To play him again was the sign of a side who couldn't be bothered to care. Gambhir was never the most talented batsman India have had, but it was his fight and gumption that made everyone root for him. He made a Test career out of punching above his weight. Here he got out trying to run away from the strike. With rain in the air. With lunch seven minutes away.
In fact the players didn't even wait for the third umpire to watch the replay. They went off immediately. Gambhir was the only man who waited. Last time he came to England he was accused of hiding behind an injury. He was now walking off with an average of 6.25 in the series, having lasted 19 excruciating deliveries, having tried a single that never was, and having not dived to make his ground. It is out of line to question anyone's courage when it comes to sport but it will be fair to say the attempt at the single showed he didn't fancy facing any more of James Anderson.
That brought together Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli to bat out of their station once again. One final time. With scrambled minds, exposed techniques and questionable support staff behind them. They are millionaires. They are in their mid-20s. They have scored centuries in South Africa and New Zealand. Kohli has won ODIs off his own bat. They have done nothing of note on this tour. They aren't even slip fielders. They will be hurting. Schedules created by their board give them no time to work on their techniques. It is out of the question to expect them to make time. Surely, even if they wanted to, they can't opt out of the BCCI's marquee events because they want to become better Test batsmen?
Pujara got out to a ball that he would normally have left alone even if it had a cake on it. Kohli tried to whip through midwicket an outswinger from off. This was resignation if ever there was any. It was him saying, "Nothing is working, what the hell, let me try my one-day game." There will be time for it, Virat. And it won't be easy. India haven't won an ODI on their last two overseas tours.
ODIs are what their captain was born for. Dhoni has gone from good to ordinary as a captain in this Test series. He has been awful as a wicketkeeper. Yet, as a batsman he has been brave and selfless. Having moved up to No. 6, he has played the game he knows, and let the balls hit his body when he has had no idea. The ball that got him in India's final innings might have cracked a rib but wouldn't have got him out last week.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has bowled 172.5 overs in this series. His pace has dropped. He has looked tired. Yet the accuracy hasn't left him. Over after over he has been nibbling away. He has been one of India's four best batsmen too. No matter how tired he has been, no matter how dispirited, he has fought hard for every single run because it is him who has had to defend them. He has made England earn his wicket almost every time. He has been India's spirit of this tour. He has been their conscience. He was named India's Man of the Series by England coach Peter Moores.
India should have got a picture of Bhuvneshwar and stuck it up in the dressing room. When they didn't feel like putting up a fight - and how much can you blame them given their techniques and the state of mind they were in? - they should have looked at Bhuvneshwar's picture and reminded themselves they have to fight for him. He is human, too. He can be forgiven a stray thought, "Who am I doing this for?" He can be forgiven the stray wild drive that signals the leaving of the last bit of spirit.
The day before this Test, Ramesh Mane, the team masseur and the general good old man, stuck pictures of gods and religious chants on the dressing-room wall. He might as well have removed them after the first session of the Test. There is no god who could have helped this team.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo