India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur

India's last bit of pride at stake

The home side enter the final in hope rather than expectation and need either a massive improvement, or a lot of luck, to draw the series

Sidharth Monga

December 12, 2012

Comments: 38 | Text size: A | A

Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni at practice, Ahmedabad, November 12, 2012
MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar are two men with uncertain futures, but for different reasons © Associated Press

After India lost the Kolkata Test, the first time they have lost two in a row at home since 1999-2000, the first question MS Dhoni was asked at the press conference was: "How bad will it get before it gets better?" Dhoni has spoken to the press for close to 25 minutes since then, and all you can gather from his statements is he wished he knew how bad it will get before it gets better. For all you know, he might not even be there when it gets better.

Dhoni is making all the right noises - about not running away from the responsibility, about this being a true test of character, about enjoying the struggle, about the high spirits - but around him the world is falling apart. A former selector is saying Dhoni had - despite failures - reached a stature in the BCCI that even all five of them couldn't remove him based on performance. There are many unnamed sources besides, making many speculations about the team unity. It is difficult to lead a side at such times.

And what a side he is leading. Two batsmen fighting for their career, one golden boy losing his shine, one debutant at No. 6, one limited-overs spinner finding it hard to lead a Test attack, a fast bowler whose "unluckiness" has become a matter of ridicule, and another debutant fast bowler or a spinner making his way into the Test side with a stellar first-class average of 54.30 this season.

Between their last series defeat at home, in 2004-05, and now, India have been down in series, but it has hardly ever been this dire. The desperate part is that this is not a case of a good side being outplayed in consecutive Tests. If you are underperforming, there is hope you will come out of it. This is an ordinary side playing to its potential. Times are so bad even Suresh Raina is being reported to have offered his services as a Test opener. India will need to play extraordinary cricket - which it will find near impossible to repeat in the future - or England will have to play poorly for this series to be drawn.

A day before the Test, Dhoni said it was good that there weren't many options left. "In a way it's a good situation to be in where we have nowhere to go. We have to do well in this game." Which makes you wonder why they didn't feel the same when series in England and Australia were slipping away. It is worse for Dhoni because this is a home series. Dhoni has never lost a home Test series. And home series is the last bit of pride India have left in Test cricket.

What a time then for Ajinkya Rahane to be favoured for a Test debut. He has waited on the bench for months, when the going wasn't this tough. He has seen India stubbornly go back to Test failures - first Raina and then Yuvraj Singh - when he was in line for a debut. Now he gets it when not winning the next Test will be India's lowest point in Test cricket since they lost 2-0 to South Africa in 1999-2000.

And if India play two quicks, there is another debut guaranteed - either Ashok Dinda or Parvinder Awana. Considering they, and Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla, were playing Ranji Trophy two days before the match, big risks are unlikely. Rahane and Chawla are frontrunners as replacements for Yuvraj and Zaheer Khan right now.

A drawn final Test is not an option, and 20 wickets on a decent batting pitch a distant thought. Accordingly the pitch in Nagpur has received no water for two days. Despite what happened in Mumbai, a square turner with three spinners in the side remains India's best chance. How they will love to win the toss and watch Virender Sehwag have one of his days.

Sehwag aside, it will take a lot of painstaking improvement for India. Batsmen used to playing like millionaires might need to play like paupers, not going after boundaries. Sachin Tendulkar showed he can do it. Bowlers will need discipline and patience, and much more effort to turn the ball. Fielding will have to improve so much you rub your eyes in disbelief to make sure these are the same men as you saw in Kolkata.

In short, Sehwag aside, India need a miracle over the next five days. Possibly even three. And they will know a miracle alone won't be enough. It will have to be followed by honest introspection. After all, there is one Test series to come between now and IPL, when India will shine again.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by RoJayao on (December 14, 2012, 13:08 GMT)

Reap what you sow. Greg Chappell saw this coming years ago. Too many skippers in Indian cricket, not enough mates to do the heavy lifting!

Posted by   on (December 14, 2012, 7:53 GMT)

5 POINTS SOLUTION...Ind needs change in strategy than change in personnel...All English bowlers r superior to their Indian counterparts: Their avg pace 140 kph (and of Indians 130 kph), they got more swing, more turn on same pitches, they bowled more % of deliveries aiming stumps, they bowled cross seam to bring natural variation ...Now the solution part 1). Keep only 140+ kph fast bowlers V Aaaron &Yadav 2). Ashwin must bowl from around the wicket to bring lbw into equation & should bowl at least 2 carrom balls per over to put doubt in batsman's mind. 3). All Indian bowlers must aim 80 % deliveries at stumps with leg side attacking fields 4). Indian spin bowlers must also bowl cross seam to bring natural variation 5). Indian Batsmen must play with open face, face on technique & slash the ball on off side like Sehwag does as it chops the ball & ball doesn't carry in slip & u never get bowled 7). All Indian batsmen must play every ball considering in-dipper with bat in front of pads

Posted by   on (December 14, 2012, 7:50 GMT)

Tendulkar still has the highest test avg by any Indian in the history..............1 bad year doesn't make him a bad player if he can score at an outstanding avg of 70 & 80 in 37th & 38th years of life after disastrous 34th &35th years then no wonder he can repeat that feat at 40 &41 as well................His fitness is good. Just that he was a bit out of practice in 2012. Additionally he is still no 1 Indian test batsman on current ICC Rankings.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (December 13, 2012, 13:40 GMT)

India beat England in England in 2007. So even if they lose 3-1 or 2-1 as they seem to heading for, I feel people should not react so much, After all this England side is probably better than any earlier team that toured India and are fully prepared for any contingency. That apart I think they are capable of beating every other country in away conditions now. The presence of Flower and Gooch has ensured that. India has been done in by a coach who is good reportedly, but who has not been allowed to spread his wings. Dhoni has lost his luck permanently and is now busy making sure that the future incumbent for captaincy Gambhir does not make it. Gambhir led KKR well and there seemed no differences between him and his team members which included some big names.So whatever Dhoni is harming Indian cricket and I wish he knew it. I wish he would be sacked after the English tour. He can wear his fatigues for other meetings in future.Inidan tolerate a lot in gratitude. It should never happen.

Posted by tusharkardile on (December 13, 2012, 12:39 GMT)

When Ganguly was captain : "There is a rift in the team. The team unity has been destroyed"

When Dhoni is captain: "There are many sources making many speculations about the team unity"

Other captains fail to inspire players. Dhoni just has an ordinary team with out of form star players.

Posted by tusharkardile on (December 13, 2012, 12:31 GMT)

Oh.... Monga, you a lot moan about this ordinary side to defend Dhoni. You are talking about ordinary players? Are they Das, Ramesh, Dasgupta, Bangar, Jaffer (almost similar stats as the ordinary Gambhir, right?), Chopra (still not good enough to be picked), Y Singh - these are the batsmen Ganguly led to victories. He won matches even with bowlers like Agarkar, and quite a few other not so good seamers, and the same unlucky guy I Sharma. Will you say all of them found form under Dada and Dhoni is plain unlucky to get these bunch of players? WAKE UP, FACE THE REALITY. DHONI is A VERY ORDINARY CAPTAIN!

Posted by   on (December 13, 2012, 12:19 GMT)

anil kumble was the main reason behind indias success in home conditions..ever since his retirement the air of invincibility india had at home is gone and might never come back until we find another world class spinner and atleast one decent pace bowler..i am afraid with indias current bowling line up, teams will be queuing up to tour india.but do the players really care...they used to be tigers at home and lambs they are lambs everywhere....silence of the lambs...they wudnt care as long as they have ipl..and fat bank balances...their paychecks are inversely proportional to their talent....

Posted by Indian_Cricket_Fanatic on (December 13, 2012, 8:42 GMT)

Rahane should search something else to do. He won't be getting a game for India in the near future it looks like.

Posted by Atifkhan3489 on (December 13, 2012, 4:02 GMT)

I was expecting jadeja debut and not for rahane.the reason is that jadeja plays for csk and rahane for rr.a poor decision.rahane should have played in place of chawla.dhoni prefers csk players so this was rather clear of jadeja getting debut.

Posted by baskar_guha on (December 13, 2012, 3:28 GMT)

It is not the end of the world if India loses a test series. India doesnt need a miracle to win this test, just play better than the English. Tired of Sid's propensity for hyperbole.

Posted by AvidCricFan on (December 13, 2012, 2:57 GMT)

Most players don't care about India's pride. They seem to care about their own pocket first.

Posted by rssampat on (December 13, 2012, 2:54 GMT)

The "miracles" that have happened under MSD'a watch have been created by Sehwag in test's. Whenever he has fired and played his natural stroke filled innings, India has always done well and set the tempo for the game, leading to wins. Dravid and VVS have fired when VS failed. The same was true for T-20's and ODI's where Yuvi and a couple of others did it for India. Never the Dhoni's. Raina's or MSD's cronies. MSD created camps in the team and played politics ably supported by Pawar (on SRT's backing) and then the former chairman of selector's and both backed by the CSK owner, who is also boss of BCCI Mr.N.Srinivasan. Will Mr.Srinivasn allow the CEO or MD of India Cements company of which he is the owner continue in the job after he deliver's losses for 3 continous years when the others in the same industry doing well?? Mr.Srinivasan, MSD, SRT have a vested interest & are taking care of themselves and their finaincial well being ahead of the country, they are not there for "Team India"

Posted by BravoBravo on (December 13, 2012, 2:46 GMT)

In the 3rd Test match (just concluded) Indias pride was R Asswin incomplete century. Now I dont know what pride for India is on the card in the 4th match. IPL is India's Pride Limited. Good Luck to the as-always-mediocre team.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (December 13, 2012, 2:12 GMT)

Mr. Monga, I am really ANGRY at your choice of words. It seems you are a bit impatient with your views on the current state of Indian cricket. Unlike you, most Indian fans are happy to lose test matches a long as there is a long term vision and planning put in place to take India back up the test rankings. I am a realist you see. I know India will find it extremely hard to consistently win test matches for the next 2 to 3 years given the number of inexperienced young players coming through. This is all in due to the lacklustre and ill-timed exits of some of our so called 'seniors' who had prolonged their stay in the team providing limited opportunities to our youngsters. How will a youngster show his true shine if he is not given any opportunities ? Even Cheteshwar Pujara's debut came late. He should have played for India 5 years back. Sometimes our Indian media should be patient too. It's easy to be an arm chair critic. Would you have done any better Mr. Monga ?

Posted by Harsha_Reddy on (December 13, 2012, 1:00 GMT)

There are no need for miracles but some good thinking ....a sehwag day will always win a game for india but india's struggle has been middle order..if rahane has to debut he should debut at 1 and sehwag may come at 3or4 ..sehwag at 3 or 4 means spinners cannot run through maidens ....and if sehwag even scores 50 at 3 or 4 ...there is a good chance middle order will flourish ....just a thought might work ..might not work not trying is not an option though....

Posted by Dcc823 on (December 13, 2012, 0:37 GMT)

If India draw this test, consider it a big achievement.

Posted by here2rock on (December 13, 2012, 0:32 GMT)

Dhoni is all talk, a man walks the talk, he does not. I would like a leader who will say to the others this is how it is done lads, like he did it in the World Cup final 2011.

Posted by monivin on (December 13, 2012, 0:20 GMT)

I feel India should lose this test for its own good. I never mind losing games with Youngsters unless they learn and correct themselves. Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar are ageing and would not be there in the next 4 years. Pujara, Kohli. Rahane, Ashwin, Murali Vijay are the futures of Test Cricket. Let us build a team for the next 1 year. See how Aus is struggling at home against Saffas. So let us try building a team rather than shouting at ourselves.

Posted by   on (December 13, 2012, 0:11 GMT)

This is the umpteenth time since the series started that Sid Monga has tried to rubbish Ashwin's bowling and label him as limited over's bowler? I am sure we are all frustrated with his return. But is it fair to label the bowler who is the fastest to reach 50 test wickets as not fit to play for Test Matches because he failed in 2 test matches? In earlier article, he almost dismisses Ashwin's wickets against NZ and WI as worthless as if those wickets do not matter. Please be fair. It is easy to be critical, sound intelligent and pass biased judgement at difficult times.

Posted by xylo on (December 13, 2012, 0:03 GMT)

What can be more humiliating to Ajinkya Rahane - losing out to test failures but ODI successes Yuvraj and Raina, or potentially losing out to all-format failure Ravindra Jadeja?

Posted by Rahulbose on (December 12, 2012, 23:17 GMT)

India needs to manage expectations. Learn from Bangladesh, when you have a team with no hope of winning. What you should do is prepare dead flat wickets and play for a draw. As for all this talk about pride, the players only need to look at their bank balance to feel proud.

Posted by anilkp on (December 12, 2012, 22:06 GMT)

Yeah, they would love to win the toss and to watch Sehwag have his day; but only if Gambhir is graceful enough to let him continue!

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 12, 2012, 21:29 GMT)

Do we still have pride. I did n't know. England and Australia are making chutney of indians. :). I saw all players stat went down after 2011 worldcup. There is only one reason. Players stop playing for dhoni. They are not fighting and scraping , instead they are ready to surrender under dhoni. India will lose this test also. I predicted England win if england can be patient and play with guile. They did spectacular job. Job is still not done. Opposition struggling , they can go for kill. This will be greatly satisfying series for england. England to win though they need to get sehwag early if not india can sneak a draw.

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (December 12, 2012, 20:52 GMT)

The picture says "MS Dhoni and SRT are two men with uncertain future". I don't think so. As long as Srinivasan is the BCCI president, Dhoni will never be removed as captain. Even if we lose the next Test match or next couple of Test series at home, Dhoni will still be India's Test captain. If Dhoni is removed as captain, his brand value will go down..which means CSK brand value will go down in IPL. I don't think Srinivasan will let that happen no matter what. I don't expect this comment to be posted on cricinfo..since truth is bitter. Don't get me wrong, Dhoni is a good ODI and T20 captain. But he is an ordinary Test skipper. Even before India lost 8-0 overseas, my opinion was the same.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 20:38 GMT)

Sid, your hard facts analysis sounds slightly negative. The Indian team hit their lowest form in Calcutta - 6 wickets in 1 hour on a benign pitch! By the law of physics they must bounce at this stage - even if it is a little baby bounce.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 20:30 GMT)

MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar are two men with uncertain futures, but for different reasons............ I think the reason is same THEY ARE NOT SCORING RUNS !!!

Posted by Nampally on (December 12, 2012, 20:27 GMT)

Dhoni & Tendulkar must accept Amarnath's utterances as a challenge & prove him wrong by their contribution. They have both been put in the "dog house" & it is upto them to get out of it by letting their bats & performance speak for them. Actions are always louder than any words!.Dhoni is appealing to his players to show their character. He has to lead by example.On paper I still think India is the better of the 2 teams if they play to their potential with right team. They must include a "Confident & in-form" guy like Jadeja in the XI.He is an outstanding fielder, brings high octane intensity which will rub off on others. It is wrong time for Rahane to make his Test debut.Nagpur is likely to be a spinners pitch. Jadeja is also in form as a bowler. India MUST go with Jadeja in XI. Sehwag & Pujara should repeat their Ahmadabad perfomances which carried India to victory. India will have 4 spinners if Jadeja & Chawla play. Quite a handful for England to handle if MCD uses them tactfully.

Posted by Dhanno on (December 12, 2012, 20:21 GMT)

Monga is spot on. The best line is "This is an ordinary side playing to its potential" , that is something lost on everyone including captain Dho.

Coming to the replacement that will take place. You have to feel for Rahane, it will be pressure cooker situation, debuting with everything at stake, all eyes on this test. The minute he fails, people will say "oh, bring back yuvi/ raina far better players those two are!". Also "why kick out Tendulakr if rahane is failing." I hope the guy keeps his cool and does what he can do to his best ability.

The other fellow who would come in, is an absolute disgrace. 55 is his avg while bowling this year, he has played in just concluded test in nagpur against vidarbha (second tier team), took a solitary wicket of 11 number batsman, leaking runs at rate more than any bowler on either side. And still here we are, welcoming Piyush chawla to test cricket!

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 19:31 GMT)

an outright rational perspective. thanks to sidharth. but why apart from sehwag? he rarely played an inning in recent few eng, aus or SA.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 19:24 GMT)

To go with three spinners is foolish to say the least. Ashwin is not playing as a batsmen should be dropped....

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 12, 2012, 19:09 GMT)

All it need two batsman to stay at crease as though life depends on it. The whole thing will change if india can put up 550 score. India always won past decade by amount of runs they scored. They always had average wimpy bowlers. It is no secret. In India it is always about who you know , not what skill you have. MRF pace foundation utter disaster for indians. I have not seen single fast bowler from MRF. It is there to help aussies fast bowler get trained in India. Seriously , what is MRF pace foundation doing if it can't help indians?. Anyways there is no chance in hell for india to win unless sehwag goes crazy after he reaches his 50. if not its over for dhoni . sachin and gambhir. Sehwag may escape cut because he and pujara only scored any runs in this series. We all want india to win but reality is indian batsman not playing well against weak england team. I think players stopped believing in dhoni. Dhoni has to go.I can't stand another loss , can india draw?. 2-1 better than 3-1

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 18:41 GMT)

Superb Sid .. Excellent articles in recent time .. Great going !

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 18:37 GMT)

The first thing 2 watchout tomorrow is the playing 11.Who gets a chance in place of Yuvraj & Zaheer..

A lot depends on sehwag's also.If he able to give a good start then india wl able 2 level the series.Hope he wl do something special..

Posted by SantoshGhirnikar on (December 12, 2012, 18:30 GMT)

I can't believe I am saying this but the harsh truth must be told: we are a fourth rate team now. I'll be cheering for England to win so finally, Dhoni, SRT, Zaheer, Ashwin will be shown the door. Ashwin is thinking he is a batsman and has stopped taking wickets. Tendulkar is finished as is Zaheer. Dhoni's form has plummeted and as captain he is not owning up to his faults and is trying to hide behind cliches that even my 13 year old daughter could parrot.

Posted by TamilIndian on (December 12, 2012, 18:11 GMT)

This I have never hoped for - I would like the team to lose. Lets see if at least then they will start taking test cricket seriously.

Posted by Shan156 on (December 12, 2012, 17:54 GMT)

"Times are so bad even Suresh Raina is being reported to have offered his services as a Test opener." What a gem! I don't think even the most ardent Indian fan would want Raina in the test team. Make no mistake, he is a very good limited overs player but test match cricket is a whole different ball game.

Jadeja's stats indicate that he will be a better replacement for Yuvraj. Whether he would do well in overseas conditions is a different matter altogether.

I still think Kohli, along with Pujara, is India's future. He may be struggling now but, boy, that kid can bat. Go no further than see his exploits in the last 2 tests against the Aussies. He needs to be taken care of.

With new kids, unless they are like Ishant Sharma, in the team, India's feeling is bound to get better.

It is on the bowling department that should really worry India. Bowlers win you tests and if India don't introduce some good new fit, fast bowlers into the team soon, they are going to have a disastrous SA tour.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 17:45 GMT)

If there is still something we called pride, it will never go any where, don't envisage India could stoop more low

Posted by NairUSA on (December 12, 2012, 17:31 GMT)

India has to accept the law of nature that new leaves will sprout and ripe leaves need to fall. Hoping miracles out of 'plateaued' players is a sure recipe for continued mediocrity. I am sure the new generation Inidan players will bring in the needed spirit to Indian cricket.

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