India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 4th day

Waiting and hoping

Excessive caution has hurt India several times in recent memory but in the morning session it reached new heights of absurdity

Sidharth Monga

December 16, 2012

Comments: 32 | Text size: A | A

R Ashwin progressed to 29 off 65 balls, India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 4th day, December 16, 2012
R Ashwin: "We were just looking to eat into the lead. What best we could muster we did muster" © BCCI
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There must be something about the Nagpur air that makes you not want to be desperate. Four years ago, during this ground's debut Test, Australia were in a similar position to India's here. It was the last Test of a series Australia had fallen behind in, they had conceded a first-innings lead of 86, but just before tea on the fourth day they came back with three quick wickets, those of VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar.

India were effectively 252 for 6. One more desperate burst and Australia could have been chasing around 320 in a little over three sessions. That would have set up a great finale to the series, right? Wrong. Australia wouldn't even try it. They came back from tea, and bowled many overs with Cameron White, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke. That corrected the over-rate all right, but India laughed their way to a series win.

At least that was surprising. Australia's captain then, Ricky Ponting, was the man, we were told, that hated losing more than any other man who played cricket at that time. The most desperate part of what happened in the first session of day four in the Nagpur Test four years later was that it was not surprising. It is just what India are used to doing under MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher.

On numerous occasions under the leadership of this combination, India have been too shy to be desperate. This side can go to any length to avoid risks. They can call off a chase in a Test they have no chance of losing; they can start off a new session with Suresh Raina when Ishant Sharma has just given them a lifeline in the match; they can know they need to keep a team down to 121 to go further in a T20 tournament and yet attempt merely to win and then even brag about it. However, in a home series, trailing 2-1, you would have thought they would shed some of the "coolness". You had another think coming.

By the time the fourth day began, time had become almost as important an element as runs and wickets. And on a slow, lifeless pitch, it was always going to be difficult to run through batsmen intent on defence. And it was obvious that with the series lead in hand, England would be intent on defence both with the bat and the ball. It was India's obligation to make all the running. Forget an overnight declaration with a notional deficit of 33 runs to give them the time to bowl England out, India meandered for 62 precious minutes for just 29 runs, which is even slower than the normal funereal pace on this pitch.

 
 
"Everybody in the world knew England would be glad to give away one run an over for however long India were content with it. Except for the India think-tank"
 

It would have been understandable had they come out to bat with quick runs in mind, without bothering if they lost wickets in the process. To everyone's shock, though, R Ashwin began the day turning down singles, which he had been doing in Kolkata too before hitting boundaries when the field came up towards the end of the over. Back then, though, England were going after wickets. Only the naïve would expect them to bring the field up in this situation.

Brace up for this. Hold on to your armchairs, for you might fall off them: India did expect just the same from England. "The same as the last game," Ashwin said of refusing singles. "Looking for the last two balls for the fielders to come in. They had a different strategy [this time]. They didn't bring the fielders up. After two overs we decided to take the singles."

Everybody in the whole wide world knew England would be glad to give away one run an over for however long India were content with it. Except for the India think-tank, that is. It took them 18 minutes, 3.5 overs wasted for just three runs and a message from the dressing room to realise that this was not working.

Moreover, it was not as if the last two wickets could have hit James Anderson and Monty Panesar around at five an over. Ashwin acknowledged as much. "You don't have the best of ability at nine, ten, eleven," he said. "You can't expect someone to smack Anderson over the top for a six on this pitch. All this game the average has been 70 and 80 runs a session. Basically looking to take the singles. We have three-run, four-run overs too. We were just looking to eat into the lead. What best we could muster we did muster. Putting it into a larger scenario, we needed to even the game. We just about did it."

Ashwin is right. The average runs per session until then had been around 70. So what does a side pushing for a win do in that case? Do something innovative to move the game and risk losing the series 3-1 or go at a rate of 58 per session? India did the latter.

England were clearly happy with the proceedings. At one point, Jonathan Trott didn't even try to run Ashwin out when the latter had run half way up the pitch before being sent back by Pragyan Ojha. When Panesar did get Ojha out, England were almost disappointed. Now they were one wicket closer to batting again.

Those 62 minutes might not even matter in the end. The pitch is just too dead. Or India might still win through some capitulation or some miracle. Regardless, that first part of the day remains a mystery and a reminder that India were hoping to win as opposed to wanting it. Then again, it goes well with a cricketing system that has been hoping for the last 18 months that things will be all right as opposed to wanting to make them all right.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 23:54 GMT)

Not only Dhoni & Fletcher need to go. There are two more funny guys in the senior think tank. The fielding coach who says he was rotating the slip Fielders, what a joke! And the bowling coach, who says Zak is in the top 6 in the world, when there was no Indian in the top 50 wicket takers, globally, including internationals & first class matches, during the current year 2012.

This is in addition to letting the past stars ( e.g. Sachin) and non-performers (Sehwag, Gouti , etc ) go, gracefully, or otherwise.

But, who will let the top administrators of Indian cricket go? Fish always start to rot from the head! Poor people in the fishing coasts chop of that first, to rescue the rest for feeding their hunger.

Posted by waqtpk on (December 16, 2012, 22:41 GMT)

Dhoni has close to zero leadership qualities. He runs team like an administrator or a manager. His post-match conferences and excuses are complete reflection of this fact. He was lucky to have great players in the team in the beginning, which kept this hidden for long time. He is non-innovative and completely non-inspirational as a captain.

Posted by landl47 on (December 16, 2012, 22:35 GMT)

The only answer I can come up with (and I said so at the time) is that India were playing for a draw. If the pitch had started to break up, then giving Engand a 33-run lead and extra time to make more runs and then bowl India out might have meant a loss rather than a draw in this game. India had apparently given up hope of winning the game and figured that a draw was better than a loss.

The fact that playing this way practically ensured that England would win the series was apparently less important than losing this match. A very mysterious way of thinking.

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 21:58 GMT)

@asif2311: Yes, Fletcher and Dhoni have FAILED India and its legions of fans. Both of them must be sacked with immediate effect. I always felt Fletcher was 'too old' to coach a young group of Indian players. His seat needs to be torn apart first and then the axe should be sharpened for Dhoni, Sehwag and Tendulkar. All 3 must leave test cricket in the capable hands of young players. Let us build a team around Kohli. I know he is only 24 but sometimes that's the best possible way ahead given the lack of options. I remember Graeme Smith when he took over from Shaun Pollock in 2003. He was in his 20s too and man what a fine captain he proved to be. Either way, it's time for swift justice in Indian cricket. The usual crocodiles shedding their fake tears need to be removed from the scene. It's time for true action and HARTHAL in Indian cricket. We DEMAND justice for Indian cricket !!!

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 21:35 GMT)

It was irritating to see Rahul Dravid, Sanjay Manjrekar and Ravi Shastri discuss the failed tactics of India when they themselves contributed to NUMEROUS series losses or game losses due to failed tactics as players. The routine blame game was played by the Indian commentators and it was appalling. Nobody has the guts in the entire country to seize the initiative and correct the mistakes. It's always about the BCCI, the selection committee or MS Dhoni, the captain. When will it be about 'OUR team', "OUR cricket", or "OUR future". Why isn't it pluralist ? Why blame persons ? It's true that this Indian team is below average. Ashwin is acting too smart. He must remember why he is in the team, and that is to ONLY take wickets. He's becoming a batsman and we don't need another one in the team. India are losing this series because of our poor bowling and add to that, some poor quality pitches masquerading as test match pitches. Indian cricket as an institution has FAILED.

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 21:05 GMT)

I think we (India) lost the series long back in Mumbai & Kolkata. Mumbai was a difficult wicket, and Pietersen played an exceptional innings there, but we really threw it away in Kolkata I believe. We should not have left it to Nagpur, that was the mistake we made!!

Posted by Rahulbose on (December 16, 2012, 20:44 GMT)

The issue is not with the team tactics but with the expectations. You have to accept that this team is barely better than Bangladesh. Ask yourself what would Bangladesh do in this situation and all your confusion will be gone.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (December 16, 2012, 19:29 GMT)

Yet more muddled thinking in the Indian camp. Was there a game plan? Who had it? Did he tell the rest, or was it just that they weren't listening? There are many reasons for India's cricketing demise recently. One of them is that all the off-field plots (right from the Eng warm-up games) have been snagged up in their own cleverness. Even the DRS issue must have been considered. (Would we do better with it? No, we're at home & the umps will want to keep the home crowds happy. We never use DRS here for that reason, but shhh, don't tell anyone!). Now, there are several Indian fans hereabouts who are beginning to see the light. Every trick in the book has been pulled & hardly a thing has worked. India has not been merely out-played, but out-thought too. England has better generals, sergeants & fitter, more willing foot-soldiers on the evidence of what we've seen. Time for India to regroup urgently, because the Australians will have been watching & planning. They have good generals too!

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 19:28 GMT)

The real reason why BCCI is opposed to DRS lies in the statistically proven fact that Umpires in close decisions favor India, specially when the game is in India. BCCI knows that its influence is growing, Umpires would not want to annoy the 'biggest goon" in Cricket. India's resistance to DRS is not based on logic or science or respect for Umpires. It is simply based on a feudal, a mafia mindset. BCCI wants to have unfair advantage, it wants to be in position to influence umpiring decisions in India's favor, rightly or not. England-India series has once again proven the above hypothesis. In my opinion, if there had been DRS universally implemented, India would have never been achieved #1 Test Team. India always benefited from Umpiring 'errors' unfairly in India, thus their unbeaten record since 2004. Look at their record outside India.

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 16, 2012, 19:19 GMT)

if dhoni , fletcher still in the team after end of series. And they will based on what N srinivasan doing. He is protecting his asset CSK. BCCI chielf has to be removed from his post for conflict of interest.

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 18:50 GMT)

when Dhoni asked for bouncy turning wickets, everyone was about to eat him alive. It would have been fun to watch cricket if India lose or win within 4 days rather than seeing teams crawling to draw on a pitch which is offering nothing other than slowness and low bounce!!!!!

Posted by nonsufficitorbis on (December 16, 2012, 18:40 GMT)

I like how people all over cricinfo try to act like they are saints and they are all working for non-profit organizations. Please, mr. monga works for money and so do all of you, who comment.

Please realise that test cricket is a poor sport. Indians are smart to know where the money is at. Dhoni and Tendulkar are doing the sport a favor by playing test cricket. The moment Dhoni, Tendulkar, sehwag and kohli call it quits in test cricket, these matches will have no better audience/viewership than Ranji trophy.

The English only care about test cricket, because they always sucked at ODIs. I really hope Tendulkar and Dhoni quit test cricket and play ODIs/IPL for a few more years. Even my gradnma finds test cricket boring. That's how antiquated test cricket is.

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 18:36 GMT)

Dec 17, 2012 ...the day Indian test cricket died. It started in 2011 when we won the world cup. From then on, we became guilty from the sin of Hubris. We lost 8-0 in test matches and we patted ourselves on the back saying that we will win in India. But the evidence is there for everyone to see. I'm not going to say drop Tendulkar or get rid of Dhoni. It's pointless. We have been over this. The bigger question is are we willing to take the next step?! Changing Indian cricket in the long term or being just happy with being just decent at home and horrible abroad? If the board doesn't push for changes, the fans need to stand up. Change needs to happen from the inside and the outside. I do believe we can go to greater heights than ever before. I believe in Pujara and Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary. The numbers 3,4,5 and 6 come to mind when I see these names. The fab 4 will live on. Forget the Past, Embrace the Future. Lets believe again.

Posted by mmoiyadi on (December 16, 2012, 18:22 GMT)

Awesome analysis !!! Had some of the thinking heads of Indian Cricket done even 20-30 percent of this kind of analysis of the current situation, we would have been in a strong position to level the series. Unfortunately this is what happens in a country where politicians/businessmen run the sports body and the veterans of cricket are left to feel sorry about the sport they played so selflessly

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 18:08 GMT)

There's a method in all this madness. 1) With Sehwag, Sachin and Gambhir off-form (for reasons related to form, partly to politics) Dhoni realizes chances of winning the test is low and India could lose chasing a tall score. 2) Cricket being our only "winning" sport, a loss is taken very badly by fans. Mediocre ex-cricketers (Azhar, Madanlal, Mohinder) come asking for the captain's head. The captain knows its better to not lose than lose while trying to win (professional hazard for Indian captains). 3) Our fabled spinners have not delivered this series. We took a gamble and included four spinners--a good idea, but did not pan out. So things don't look promising on that end. Bottomline: Given high odds of losing when trying to win, what would you like--a low-odds victory, high-odds loss or highest-odds draw? I know what I would choose if I was Indian captain.

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 17:55 GMT)

"The same as the last game," Ashwin said of refusing singles. "Looking for the last two balls for the fielders to come in. They had a different strategy [this time]. They didn't bring the fielders up. After two overs we decided to take the singles."

I am literally shocked to read this statement........its our misfortune that we cheer for THIS INDIAN TEAM which even failed to see the difference between situations in Kolkata Test and the ongoing Nagpur Test.......where on earth they are living at present..? I dont have any words now...being a die hard Indian i do hope this Indian team to lose this series....atleast it will be a lesson for the players and BCCI....God save Indian Cricket

Posted by asif2311 on (December 16, 2012, 17:44 GMT)

its time for dhoni and fletcher to go...india have lost spine and spirit under them and the signs were there early on....in june-july 2011 ind had to chase 100 odd in 25 overs with 6 wickets in hand against a weak wi attack and just when we thought laxman and dravid will push for the win ind settled for a draw....what that has lead to is today we face total humiliation in a sport which is more than a religion here in india

Posted by AvidCricFan on (December 16, 2012, 17:28 GMT)

Hope doesn't produce results, performance does. The Indian team simply failed to perform. Talking about game plan to target certain batsmen (AC, KP) is good but the team needs right weapons (bowler) to execute the plan. The team simply doesn't have enough fire power. Some of the Indian batsmen, like Viru, can only perform when ball comes at certain pace and consistent bounce above knees and below waist and SRT can't perform in any condition as he fails to read line and length due to his aging. Add fielding weakness on top of it. No wonder why team is failing. The rebuilding will be painful. Some players may fail and results may be inconsistent. However, it is still a better option than losing consistently with non-performing aged stars. The presence of SRT in the team to be mentor for newcomers is oversold. It is simply not helping at all. He can be mentor in the dressing room not on the field.

Posted by ebbandflow on (December 16, 2012, 17:27 GMT)

@InsideHedge, One more example is Matthew Hayden, another left hander who Indians never seemed to know how to dismiss! As for the current status of team India, I do not see any radical changes being made apart from a token player or two being rested and then brought back into the team without seemingly doing anything in the break. All I am interested in now is to hear what Dhoni and BCCI have to say about this series loss

Posted by VickGower on (December 16, 2012, 17:19 GMT)

All fans of Indian cricket are hurting, but it makes no sense to get this desperate over the extra one hour that India played. There is something to be said about the psychological edge of not conceding a 40 run lead. And, let's be honest here. If the pitch has deteriorated so bad that England could have been all out on day 4, then there is a real chance that this Indian top order could not have seen through the day 5 (let alone chase down the 220 + 40 runs). While the Indian fans are presently showing no difference between a 2-1 and 3-1 score line, in reality, there is a big difference, and it would be a terrific blow after what Dhoni and Kohli did. Let's face it, this is a pitch where India needed to bat for two full days with Sehwag/Sachin/Gambhir firing, to have any chance at winning.

Posted by Nampally on (December 16, 2012, 16:51 GMT)

I would rather attribute slow batting to Dhoni when he played out 6 overs on 99!.He should have got at least 4 runs/over then.Any plans for Indian victory should have started on Day 3 Session 3. On Day 4 it is too late to expect Ashwin to score runs & protect Ojha from getting out. I think he did a good job of adding another 29 runs in 11 overs - which is about the same as when well set Dhoni & Kohli were batting!. India did not have an adjustable plan in this Test & played too much defensive Cricket after losing 4 early wickets. It was understandable because Kohli & Dhoni were last "recognized" bats. I would have promoted Ashwin ahead of Dhoni @#6 - knowing his good form. The match was heading for a draw at the start of Day 4 unless pitch changed its character.As things stand England cannot lose - A Draw of England win- if India falter, are the only possible results. I expected more from RH Leg spinner than Chawla did especially in the second innings.He should have been the X Factor!

Posted by VincentSunder on (December 16, 2012, 16:50 GMT)

BRILLIANT ANALYSIS!! Nailed it!

Posted by Krishna.ventrapragada on (December 16, 2012, 16:39 GMT)

Eagerly waiting for the REASONS from Dhoni..

Posted by m_ilind on (December 16, 2012, 16:33 GMT)

Great article, Siddarth! This game is played as much in the mind as on the field. We need street smart cricketers in our team, where have they gone?

Posted by InsideHedge on (December 16, 2012, 16:24 GMT)

That first hour was an example of how India didn't even discuss what England would do, they made assumptions. Conversely, England not only had a gameplan but everyone was on board.

But before Sid lays too hard into this team, one should remember that it's a historical problem with the Indian cricket team where strategy is concerned. For example, before every series, an amateur fan will be able to identify ONE batsman from the opposition who will cause damage to India. The Indian team will have no strategy in place, they won't even discuss how to get the player out. They simply show up and hope.

Two examples: (1) Shiv Chanderpaul & (2) Cook: It's not a coincidence that these two are lefties either. There is no gameplan in place to dismiss these two, somehow we managed to escape massive Brian Lara inns but I assure you that was more thru good fortune than any brilliance on part of the Indian bowlers.

Posted by CricketFreud on (December 16, 2012, 15:49 GMT)

the last statement cannot be truer... hope the indian team comes out of the denial phase...

Posted by   on (December 16, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

Where is the mystery, Sidharth? A few lines earlier, didn't you say that Fletcher-Dhoni combo always tried to avoid a loss, rather than trying for a risky win? It seems, they reckon a 1-2 loss is better than a 1-3 loss. Elementary Mr Watson, I mean Mr.Monga!

Posted by Krishna.ventrapragada on (December 16, 2012, 15:27 GMT)

Dhoni: Duncan never told us the English were this good against Spin... So in our minds, we don't consider this a defeat...

Posted by Dhanno on (December 16, 2012, 14:56 GMT)

# "The same as the last game," Ashwin said of refusing singles. "Looking for the last two balls for the fielders to come in. They had a different strategy - #Yeah Sherlock! Nobody thought, that given we are 2-1 down, we will have to push the proceedings, that england will be happy to sit back ? This is the level of test match knowledge we have in the squad, this is extent of malaise we dealing with. These clowns act in advts/ slog in IPLs and then sit stare @ bank balance whole time - to extent they have forgotton the basics of 5-day game. After 18 mins they had to send a guy with message to inform what was happening !!! Sorry sorry state of cricket, I feel for opposition who has to come and play against such utter inept characters. I mean cmon, tomorrow you tell any top sportsman, that he will compete with guy who has no basic knowledge of sport he is playing, but he is there due to his money/clout.

Indian clowns are still allowed to play sport as BCCI/ India has all the clout.

Posted by shrastogi on (December 16, 2012, 14:31 GMT)

I think just too much is been made out of the decision to bat for one hour on 4th day. See so far in this test 22 wickets have fallen ( 5 on first day, 4 on day 3 & 4, 9 on day 2). The 9 wickets on day 2 were due to sheer ineptitude of Indian top order batting which was clearly evident in the way Dhoni & Kohli batted on day 3. The only way a result in Indian way was possible if England has gifted it to India and not because of one hour of batting. Its abd to lose aseries at home but even tems like Australina, Engalnd and SA also do. Indian team is in transition phase and I'm sure with alittle bit of more experience the team would do better. Please remeber that inspite of new players like Ganguly, Dravid & Laxman initially Indians didnt do so well abroad and inspite of their preesnce we lost the home series to Australia. But at the same time we need a change in team management as the team is not assesing itself well.

Posted by indianpunter on (December 16, 2012, 14:18 GMT)

My greatest worry is that, when this test is drawn, M/s Srinivasan and Dhoni would declare that Nagpur is an improvement on Mumbai and Kolkata and that there is no issue that needs urgent attention. ie, the worst outcome would be for status quo to prevail. I cannot see how Tendulkar can be picked for another test. Why wouldnt he have the grace to call time? Sehwag needs to go too, and maybe Ganbhir. we need lads with commitment to the cause, hunger in their belly and passion in their minds to be drafted in. Sadly, no one cares.

Posted by TheBengalTiger on (December 16, 2012, 14:18 GMT)

I wish you were in charge of Indian cricket. The people currently in charge know nothing about the sport. all they care about is money. we need a drastic change. Big time

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