Eng v Ind, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 3rd day August 17, 2014

Spirit departs sorry India

The details of India's capitulation at The Oval did not bear repeating as even their Man of the Series, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, gave up the fight

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Laxman: Kohli, Pujara should not doubt their abilities

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.

Ramesh Mane 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

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 19, 2014, 8:42 GMT

    Fact - Indian teams overseas performance has always been poor, why blame just this team. People are talking as though India has always been doing great overseas. Apart from some magical performances, they have all struggled overseas. We have seen Indian team that could hardly get past 100 in south africa years ago and yes, that team included Sachin. The moment India tour England, everything changes. Their pitches are curated totally differently. They use a different ball specifically designed for swinging. They do the same with teams like Australia, England will be a dead duck. The fact is the England team is also a ordinary team just that their opposition should be able to use their conditions. India could not, may be because of lack of experience, lack of help from their coach, whatever. But there are lot of other teams that can do it in England. If not, England should be winning all their tests overseas too, but that is not the case.

  • Dummy4 on August 19, 2014, 8:36 GMT

    And we have a dozen would be captains waiting for a chance, isn't it? People are talking as though India has hell lot of options for a captain. When they themselves are saying Test cricket is a far more complicated story, how can somebody who is not even experienced come into the team and head them in tests? When his fielders are not supporting him, he has to try out bizarre field settings. His bowlers do not follow him so he has to set a field such that they bowl the line and length he wants them to. His batsman have failed the whole nation, to be frank. Not learning from their mistakes, if they realized it that is, is criminal when playing for a nation. If you really have to question, then that should be Fletcher's role. Being a coach, he is responsible for keeping their morale up, work on the player's negatives. Being a Brit he has done nothing to teach the young guys how to play in England. Why don't anybody talk about that?

  • Suj on August 19, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    and it all started with the catch that Jadeja dropped off Cook ... What a momentum shift that created

  • ian on August 18, 2014, 21:14 GMT

    I note that many Indian fans are focussing on wholesale changes in the compostion of the team. IMO, this does not get to the root of the problem. India needs to let Dohni walk away from the Test side, or at least from captaincy and w/keeping. His heart is not in the job and, honest man that he is, he knows that in his heart of hearts, he cannot handle the multifaceted aspects of captaining a team in the field in a Test match. Some of his fielding placements (no third man; keeping a leg slip in a defensive field set) are just plain bizarre. He knows format cricket; he thinks that TC is the same. Well, it just isn't; it's a far more complex and nuanced business. Most tellingly of all, he does not hurt after a total humiliation. If it means little, then it won't hurt. India needs a captain that will be spurred on by national pride, who is prepared to admit that thumping defeats DO hurt! MS can stick to the ODI/ t20 stuff. He's played out in TC.

  • Ashok on August 18, 2014, 21:11 GMT

    A clever Captain would have used the Lords Test Win to apply stranglehold on England & finish them off at the Southampton. I blame the shift of Momentum to England in the Third Test solely on Dhoni. This defeat at the Oval was so bad that as an Indian fan I feel more humiliated than the Indian Cricketers. Everyone has pride in the job they do whether it be playing Cricket, Tennis, practicing medicine or Engineering professions or just farming. When a team takes such a bad beating - back to back innings defeat from an average England team which was written off after Lords Test by the media, it begs the question: Do Indian Cricketers have any self pride? When you represent your Nation in a Test match, India has put its faith in their team. Why are these guys are so pathetic with huge lucrative contracts of up to $.75 Million (US)? Indian Women Cricketers who do not get paid beat the Professional England Team in Test 1. Is India paying wrong guys big Bucks?

  • Jake on August 18, 2014, 18:57 GMT

    T20's are too long for India. I think they should just play T10s or T5's.

  • Adnan on August 18, 2014, 17:50 GMT

    @safco786 : 'coz BCCI thinks that soon there will be no cricket except in India.

  • Anurag on August 18, 2014, 17:05 GMT

    India need to induct raw fast bowling/spin bowlers just like other countries do. MOST IMP - Please find out two fast bowling alrounders wo can play at the test level. Also India should have 2-3 fast and bouncy pitches like Perth (May be in Nagpur,Banglore & Chandigarh) and Indian domestic level matches should be played there apart from playing in spin friendly pitches. That way bowlers can develop the skills playing in different kinds of pitches not just one type. Indian players basics needs to be corrected hence the quality of the domestic level cricket needs a huge correction..BCCI has money but not sure where its been invested. BCCI should encourage domestic level players by paying them well for the domestic matches, that way players will be willing to play test matches and will not just focus on IPL to make money. There should be prizes for Top Five batsmen/bowlers/fielders & that will also make the pool for selection in the national team.

  • idris on August 18, 2014, 16:55 GMT

    I do not understand why BCCI does not let indian players play in outside leag? Specially England, Australia and westindeis. Where Indian players failing all the time. Indian players should have experience.

  • Dummy4 on August 18, 2014, 16:44 GMT

    It is not a bad thing to loose but it is bad if you do not learn from your mistakes. Losing the first test brought down India's confidence, I don't know whether they have some sportsman spirit left with to show some fight even when losing. 5th Test was on our Independence Day, At least one meaningful session would have given us some pride. Indian Cricket Team have some pride for your nation while playing, we needed a good fight thats all. When you don't take pride in the game, you can never win or show some fight in the game.

    Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Pujara, Dhawan, Jadeja pls show some spirit in the game, don't embarrass the nation and the cricket legends of India.

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