Sharda Ugra
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Senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

India's professional cop-out

The world's No. 1 team did not back themselves against a side struggling to find their feet at the highest level, and ended up looking both cynical and timid in the process

Sharda Ugra

July 14, 2011

Comments: 64 | Text size: A | A

Indian captain MS Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher,  watch a practice session, Dominica, July 5 2011
A defensive decision from the Indian think tank © AFP

In a few days, India's walk-away at Windsor Park will be forgotten. Once the first ball is bowled at Lord's, the raging debate will be reduced to an old argument. From then on, any of those particular trees can fall in the forest and none will make a sound.

Until then, cricketers and cricket gurus, spectators and TV viewers, fans and friends, will be sorting out the whys and why nots of India's departure in Dominica with 15 overs left to bowl and 86 to get. We talk to each other, write in emails, or in the public space, to check whether we're missing something; whether it was really quite such an explicable or inexplicable thing. We communicate to quieten the phantoms of that event that are still hurtling around the brain. Every argument for and against is debated or shouted down, but some doubts are not easily silenced.

Would India have done this at home? Not even tried to win a Test?

Imagine the scene acting itself out against West Indies - or any team of similar standing - at Eden Gardens. Or on Kotla's schizophrenic wicket. Wouldn't the fans have been furious? Would it have been fair? What would the crowd have done?

Okay, switch things around: what if a born-again West Indies do the same to India in 10 years' time? Once again World Cup winners and world No.1, leading a series 1-0, West Indies, with seven wickets left, 86 to get, just decide to call the game off. What would we think of them?

There were 12,000 people in Windsor Park that evening. It was a full house, the best crowd seen during a series in which they've struggled to get crowds in for five ODIs featuring the World Cup winners (though without their full-strength team). Yet the crowd turned up in Dominica for a fifth-day party and India called it off.

Criticism of the Indian team is these days often hollered down by their more extreme "faithful" with the argument that the pressures of international cricket are not understood by those off the field. Those off the field - in this case, the world outside the game's 2631 Test cricketers - do have the right, however, to feel short-changed when an international team don't extend their own chances and a cricket match as far as they could have.

Cricketers often use a phrase when talking about how they stretched mind, body and their individual games to produce a dramatic, unexpected performance: they say they "backed themselves". It means that when the belief around them dries up and the task at hand appears impossible, the man in the middle tells himself, "This can be done and I can be the one to do it." It is a competitor's cussed refusal to stand down even though walls are crumbling around him. It is what champions do across all sport, it is their fingerprint in history. This was world No. 1 India, and they did not back themselves.

Dominica could have been understood by an earlier generation: had this happened in 2002 or 2006, when India were touring the West Indies without a Test series win in over three decades, a sympathetic observer would instinctively have had an awareness of a team's anxiety to get its ghoulish past out of the way. Hell, at times like those, the fan also endures a stomach heaving with butterfly stampedes.

Had this happened in 2002 or 2006, when India were touring the West Indies without a Test series win in over three decades, a sympathetic observer would instinctively have had an awareness of a team's anxiety to get its ghoulish past out of the way

Dreamers and "purists" can often be silenced into practicality by being told that eventually despite all their guff, getting the right result is everything. It is, indeed. In Dominica, could India really have clattered to defeat within 15 overs? When considering this worst-case scenario, did they believe that they had no one in their ranks who could seize faltering fortune by the wrist and guide it to safety? Fidel Edwards, West Indies' No. 10 batsman, stared a very real defeat in the face for more than two and a half hours against the more superior attack from the two teams, so the wicket was not about to spring to horrific life in the last hour of play.

The coach, Duncan Fletcher, magnificently snippy after the match, did what all coaches must and launched a resolute defence of his team when he said that scoring runs on that wicket "was difficult". Dominica was hosting its first Test, so maybe the air around Windsor Park felt a bit unfamiliar to all involved. It was, however, the 1999th Test match in the history of the game (and India's 451st); in this brief span of 134 years, it has largely been established that the best of Test cricket usually involves what is "difficult". Greats of the game are usually born in Difficult. What message does that send to Virat Kohli or even about him? Sorry, lad, it's too difficult. You really can't handle this. Let's finish the game quick, make up for Kingston and go back to our hotel early. We've won the series, anyway.

Just like football toned down a brand of ghastly tackles by calling them "professional fouls", it is perhaps time to create a new-age cricket euphemism: the professional cop-out. In Dominica, to the ignorant world of us zero-class cricketers, the Indian team ended up looking both cynical and timid. That's quite an achievement.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Lallubhai on (July 16, 2011, 13:27 GMT)

I have followed Indian cricket since the early 70's and for the most part of it i was broken hearted with their failures after failures .The last few years we have won the World 20/20, Wkorld 50/50 , become & held onto 1st Test ranking & successfully run the amazing IPL that is the envy of all cricketing nations .I SEE THE GLASS AS HALF FULL . GO INDIA GO.

Posted by S.N.Singh on (July 16, 2011, 12:28 GMT)


Posted by Percy_Fender on (July 16, 2011, 12:23 GMT)

Nampally's comments are absolutely brilliant. I agree with him totally that if Mishra had played in lieu of Munaf, India would not have had to play the second innings and this silly debate would never have taken place though we won the series. In my opinion on the lines of Nampally's thoughts, Harbhajan was the villian of the piece even if he got his 400th wicket and looked as if he was Shane Warne himself and has even talked about being disappointed if he did not get to 600. Harbhajan is a big stumbling block and must go. In fact I thought Raina is good enough if Mishra also plays. Harbhajan should go back to the drawing board and see if he can get back the confidence to bowl at around 49/50 mph with flight and drift.Till that happens, he should be kept away. A match winner is one who can run through a batting not just boost his own life time tally. However, I think Munaf is coming back to his expected pace and that is good news. He can be a handful on wickets with some juice.

Posted by raj_canada on (July 15, 2011, 23:49 GMT)

@ Ms. Sharda Ugra: I have two questions for u.. Have you swallowed a dictionary??.. Why do u have such a captious mind on Indian players/BCCI?? That was not a flat track to score easily and also u remember that it was not a T20 where the track was prepared freshly.. It was the '5th day West Indies pitch'.. By the by, u r a good writer though (if u avoid this 'pessimist' journalism)

Posted by crickeyt on (July 15, 2011, 23:31 GMT)

I can't understand the Indian fans posting here who are satisfied with a mere series win. India lost 2 points in the Test rankings because they did not push for victory. And rightly so, since a series against the 8th ranked side should have been won by more than a 1-0 margin. In the larger scheme of things, with a Test championship now in place, the Indian team needs to stop thinking about series wins and start maximizing the points they can earn. The only way to do that is to win as many Test matches as possible. For the Dominica Test, both Fletcher and Sharda are not correct - it was a draw neither due to weather nor timid batsmen. The chase was a tough one to begin with, but India got into that position due to toothless bowling that could not dislodge a number 10 batsman for a more than a session.

Posted by sachinrh on (July 15, 2011, 15:09 GMT)

I really want to believe my own theory.the whole efforts were to allow West Indies to Draw. in order to promote cricket in Dominica & indirectly support growth of cricket/economy in west Indies. to make sure one of the oldest beauty in the cricketing world survives. wow I feel so good being an Indian. its impossible to believe, #1 Test ranked team, world cup winner, T20 champs, IPL folks habitual of carrying T20 hammer, Legends of test cricket on the crease, Best young talent, coolest captain & most destructive Oneday player, game changer Bhaji, formidable lower bat order (if Fidel can bat for 37 ovr),slow but batsmen friendly al.. pls do not tell me any other reason for offering a draw. in total disbelief, I did not move away from the screen, untill they stopped transmission. then I question myself.. wasnt it the West Indies, who after their worldcup defeat came, demolished, demoralised & went back with 3-0 test & 5-0 ODI win. I will go with my first line & Shardas first para

Posted by   on (July 15, 2011, 14:20 GMT)

hardly convincing,,,,,,,just celebrate d rise of indian cricket sharda,,,,,even aussies in their prime played out 4 draws on the trott against a lowly ranked kiwis,,,,that too in their own backyard. Its too easy to criticize and write out flaws of a team while sitting cozily in an A.C. cabin but dont u think d captain of worlds no 1 test team deserves a little more respect....

Posted by   on (July 15, 2011, 10:01 GMT)

The fans were short-changed. The umpires should never have allowed the match to be called off with 1 hour left. On the one hand people scream and shout about test matches not attracting people, and on the other, when people do turn up or tune on their TVs, matches are called off by the players. This is ridiculous.

Posted by Shantanu11 on (July 15, 2011, 9:16 GMT)

What's the point in continuing this endless debate?? Obviously there are 2 schools of thought here... one thought the best way was to play safe instead of going for glory by taking risk... other thinks being a champion one ought to behave like champion - belive in own abilities and keep trying to win in difficult situations... I think both lines of thinking are right in their own perspective.. whats the point in micro-analysing the decision for so long... I am not supporting Dhoni either but I can very well see the reasons behind his thinking... fair enough.. he is the captain and has acted what he thought was best in that situation.. to say the least I dont see this as obvious and biggest blunder by India...

Posted by anuajm on (July 15, 2011, 6:33 GMT)

Specially considering the fact if its a rule rather than an exception!!

Posted by anuajm on (July 15, 2011, 6:33 GMT)

While I agree that India would have given a shot and played a few more overs, but winning it was surely impossible from there on.Do you think with Draviod and Laxman, India good have suddenly upped their run rate from 3 to 6? West Indies bowlers are not fools and are a great bwloing unit. What do you think they would have done if India had started attacking? Obviously time delay techniques, bowling wide down the off stump with a 7-2 field, negative line from Bishoo. Therefore, our batsman didn't lose the match (unless they would have maintained a runrate of 4 from the start), but the match was lost when Shiv and Edwards had that partnership. People have convieniently ignored this, but the weakest link in the team is Bhajji!! Tony Greig rightly said India should be very worried abt Bhajji going to England!! Remember out of 4 wickets he took, 2 were wrong decisions. Not able to dismiss a tailender on a 5th day pitch by one of the worlds supposedly finest bowlers is unacceptable.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2011, 5:27 GMT)

By copping out, the Indian team has acknowledged that they do not believe anyone in their batting line up can hold out for a draw (for 10 overs at the max), if anything goes wrong in the chase?

Posted by   on (July 15, 2011, 3:50 GMT)

Dont know why people crying about this test match.Remember this is India's second string team that too without sehwag.I dont know about WI in their prime but Aus never played with a second string team in their prime.At the end India won the series and that exceeds my expectation cos Indian bowling is no where close to WI or AUS( in present or past)

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 23:55 GMT)

This would never have happened when Kumble were captain. Nor Ganguly for that matter, Sydney 2004 notwithstanding.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (July 14, 2011, 22:35 GMT)

India decision was not in the spirit of the game. Sport is not about giving up. If India wanted a draw they should have been made to play one out. What next? Zim calling of Test after first session so they don't lose? They don't end football matches after 70 mins because both teams are happy with 0-0. This stuff kills Test cricket.

Posted by Wolfpax on (July 14, 2011, 22:11 GMT)

I think people (be it fans, journalists, etc) are blowing this issue out of proportion. First of foremost, by sitting in our chairs, we don't know what the pitch is like, how good the opposition is bowling, what our batsmen feel and so on! So the players are in best position to judge the situation and we have to back them with their decisions. Wouldn't they have thought what would 1Bn fans think if they give up match with 15 overs to go? Cricket is funny game, so imagine that if we decided to chase the target for the crowd in Dominica and unfortunately, for us, we lost all our batsmen ( 4 more wickets) in span of 7-8 overs, worse than that we get all out on the last ball of the 15th over. Series goes 1-1. 1Bn people will surely curse the team than...nobody would say that we tried to go for it and lost! We Indians always want wins! If we draw (to win series) we criticize, if we loose a match in pursuit of victory, we criticize! (for not going for draw) May be we shd hv faith in our team

Posted by DaGameChanger on (July 14, 2011, 20:48 GMT)

In Soccer, they do it all the time. Once you're leading 1-0 just do the time-pass by knocking around the ball and sometimes even show your acting skills when opponents even touch you. Never heard anybody saying that it's a disgrace to the soccer.

Posted by sachinrh on (July 14, 2011, 20:33 GMT)

I really want to believe my own theory.the whole efforts were to allow West Indies to Draw. in order to promote cricket in Dominica & indirectly support growth of cricket/economy in west Indies. to make sure one of the oldest beauty in the cricketing world survives. wow I feel so good being an Indian. its impossible to believe, #1 Test ranked team, world cup winner, T20 champs, IPL folks habitual of carrying T20 hammer, Legends of test cricket on the crease, Best young talent, coolest captain & most destructive Oneday player, game changer Bhaji, formidable lower bat order (if Fidel can bat for 37 ovr),slow but batsmen friendly al.. pls do not tell me any other reason for offering a draw. in total disbelief, I did not move away from the screen, untill they stopped transmission. then I question myself.. wasnt it the West Indies, who after their worldcup defeat came,demolished, demoralised & went back with 3-0 test & 5-0 ODI win. I will go with my first line & Shardas first para.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 20:30 GMT)

It is the right of a columnist to criticize the team and generate debate. For all the people who ask Sharda to play for the team, maybe you guys should first write thought provoking and insightful articles read by thousands around the world before you can criticize Sharda. Makes sense? About as much as your ludicrous arguments.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 19:34 GMT)

I have commented upon this the upteenth time now and I still stand by Dhoni. Competitive or not you need to realize that he is not a machine, and captaining an Indian side is even more mechanical these days. The days when Sachin used to pump in adrenalin and liven up an entire nation are gone. Since then the quantum of cricket played and the height of awareness has reached new levels. The Indian team is a much more professional and a target based outfit than it was in the 90s or the early part of the last decade. Gone are the days when one would say that winning abroad was a taboo. Now its more of a routine job. One must also realize that the adrenalin pumps cannot work everyday and one needs to switch it off sometimes in order to preserve it for the future. What Dhoni and Co. did in Dominica was a testament of this new facet of Indian cricket. A series has been won, lets preserve the seniors and the bowlers for the real job in the english isles... ! whats wrong with that... ??

Posted by Robster1 on (July 14, 2011, 19:11 GMT)

Not India's finest hour - it seems as though the easy option was indeed taken. What does that say about the team and coach's mind set ?

Posted by PratUSA on (July 14, 2011, 18:49 GMT)

Very well written Sharda. I was disgusted when suddenly test match was over. There is no excuse for not playing at least another 7 to 8 overs before making a call. @ PMCric - My friend your logic is lacking understanding of the game. You should watch more ODIs and you will learn that when only few overs to play and wickets in hand batting sides can take their chances and sometimes they come off. Unlike ODIs however in test cricket you have luxury to change your tactic and play out the overs if you find yourself running the risk of bowling out as it will still earn you a draw.

Posted by Caveman. on (July 14, 2011, 18:37 GMT)

To be honest, the decision to call off the game should rest solely with match referees (may be in consultation with the umpires). This is too big of a responsibility for the captains and players.

Posted by Triple_A on (July 14, 2011, 18:30 GMT)

Everyone is ready to hound the team when they fall short of their HIGH expectations. Specially people who do nothing for the country themselves...get a life and let the team be. Did they lose their #1 position: NO. Did they lose the test: NO. Did they lose the series or not try and win it:NO. Then why crib...maybe the critics can play for India and try and win from such situations...but wait, these guys can just blabber but not do anything themselves!

Posted by Vilander on (July 14, 2011, 18:10 GMT)

The author might want to have a less cheerful photo for her profile to better describe the general mood of all her articles.

Posted by mritunjai on (July 14, 2011, 17:00 GMT)

I think the law gives the right to captains to decide and the captain felt there was no point risking a series or possibly an injury for a win of just theoretical importance that too with a probability of less than 1 percent. Critics and newspaper as well as public need something to talk about in this gap between two series and now they have created one.

Posted by CandidIndian on (July 14, 2011, 16:49 GMT)

Well now its a bit too much of stretching and sensationalizing things.Yes India made a rather defensive move, but the main point is India never thought WI was much of a threat hence they did not send many of their first choice players here,in-spite of that they won ODI series and test series.If WI would have won ODI or test series or both, such articles criticizing India are understandable,but that didn't happen right.Why didnt Sammy fought till the last ball, they were 1-0 down, wasn't that defensive, i cant see someone mentioning that in any article.India were expected to win ODI and test series ,they did it, also they got fair amount of criticism for defensive move, but no need to give overdose of criticism.

Posted by sweetspot on (July 14, 2011, 16:09 GMT)

So, everyone except Dhoni knows we had a chance to win this one? Dhoni got exactly what we wanted - the series win. How greedy do we have to be? Let the young WI team breathe a bit easier, too. What's wrong with not rubbing it into them? T20, ODI, and Tests - all won! What more can we ask for? Yes, Test cricket is about doing the "difficult", but Dhoni's team is #1 precisely because he knows when to take it "easy". So take it easy on him, will you? When it really matters, we know he will deliver and his team will stretch for him. We are not here to emulate anybody else. This is the way our boys play. Let's celebrate them for what they are! Oh, and for sure, our crowds would not have been furious. They would understand, clearly more than you, Sharda.

Posted by Angad11 on (July 14, 2011, 15:59 GMT)

@ Jim1207 & PMCric - If you read the entire article, your questions will be answered.

Posted by Angry_Bowler on (July 14, 2011, 15:48 GMT)

@PMCric, you are a genious. I hope Cricinfo will hire you in place of Sharda for writing some good sensible articles and she can play for Indian womens's team and make it world no.1 @Jim1207, LOl.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 15:38 GMT)

TIMID is how I would define India's approach.The Coach and captain can give any number of Excuses but the Fact of Matter is World # 1 team against very mediocre attack could not attempt 86 runs of 90 balls ( starting with 180 runs from 47 overs!). THE RESULT WAS NOT IMPORTANT AS THE INTENT...but time again India shows they are not made of what it takes to Dominate world cricket. MSD has disappointed big time and turned the clock of Indian cricket by 20-30 yrs.

Posted by RD270 on (July 14, 2011, 15:37 GMT)

Sharda, you truly are one of last few Indian journalists with integrity. Please ensure that you don't go the Harsha way...

There is much to be admired about the way you write. You are not afraid to go against the popular view. Keep up the good work.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 15:31 GMT)

Sharda has always seen the negative side of India, may be this is one instance that she might just be justified in doing so. Fletcher was not convincing at the least with his reasoning for shutting shop. Plans for the chase were very faulty to start with.The least said the more better we guess, but someone has to put up his hand and say '' well guys we blundered somewhere down the road '' and move on. We had Kohli who could have been promoted with instructions to go after the bowling as he really had nothing to lose, and see how it goes. It did not happen and here we are all dissapointed, and we do have the reasons for it ,cause this Indian team never really seriously tried.

Posted by Nampally on (July 14, 2011, 15:01 GMT)

India never went into the third test with a winning attitude. If they had Parthiv would have opened the innings and Mishra would have played instead of Munaf. These 2 changes alone would have resulted in a victory.Take for examle chasing 180 runs in 47 overs. Parthiv is an aggressive opener and would have started that way too. Dhomi should have changed the order to #3. Raina #4 Dhoni #5. Kohli with Dravid & Laxman in the rearguard. Also if Mishra had played, WI might have suffered an innings defeat - forget the last 15 overs. When Bishoo could keep even Laxman & Dhoni quite, Mishra, a far superior bowler, would have run thru' the side because he has an excellent googly in addition to leg spin & flipper.Edwards & Chanderpal would never score centuries with Mishra in the team.When Duncan said it is difficult to score against Bishoo, why did he drop Mishra from the XI? So Dhoni & Duncan have a lot of questions to answer in not inflicting an innings defeat on a weak WI team.

Posted by tv_rulez on (July 14, 2011, 14:55 GMT)

@PMCric - I'm in total agreement with you. Any team could have defended 84 of 15 overs. Also, as you rightly said, India tried pushing the rate but lost the wickets of Vijay and Raina when they did so. Had a cpl of more wickets fallen, then its an unnecessary pressure on d lower middle order. Its bad when our ppl are proud to say that our team India is World#1, they should also try, understand and support the team on some decisions which the team thought is the right one. The captain whose win-loss rate is more than any captains so far, would have definitely thought thru this before going for a declaration. And pls stop comparing to the aussies - pls can anyone quote a similar situation when Aussies tried chasing against a non-sporty team (as windies were bowling -ve). I do remember one of those hard fought tests, when McGrath was bowling well outside the offstump (a typical one day wide) when Newzealand tried chasing down their target. Supporters shd grow up to support a #1 team!

Posted by Another_brick_in_the_wall on (July 14, 2011, 14:29 GMT)

We are all missing the point. This match was a draw because of the inability of the Indian bowlers to take out Shiv and Co. Fidel Edwards had no business playing out 37 overs. It is unbelievable we are thinking about 85 off 15, its not about that at all. We should we worried about the insipid Indian bowlers inspite of having someone who has taken 400 wickets.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 14:04 GMT)

@Jim1207, completely agree with U ......:P

Posted by Irarum on (July 14, 2011, 14:04 GMT)

@PMCric: We both know that every player has a role and Dravid was just playing his. You think Dhoni instructed his team to go for all or nothing? I don't think so. Why was Ishant bowling around stumps to Fidel? India's strategy looked a bit on negative side for me. Instead they should have tried to take wickets at the cost of runs, which would eventually end in draw and would not have drawn such criticism. Dravid is not the reason here. Instead it should be Mukund, Raina. Mukund gets out to a full ball. and still gets a spot in England team. Raina, should have gone for it. But he just waited for good balls to be hit. When the pitch isn't doing much why can't you risk 1 or 2 players? Surely, the discusion would change for a 120/7 and forced draw situation.

Posted by m0se on (July 14, 2011, 13:52 GMT)

This is all just pointless. The best half of the Indian team decided not to show up. The rest are itching to get back to the hotel after each day of perfunctory cricket and Indian public are still howling for blood after they've given the Indian public the world cup and the IPL on the trot. Even Dhoni is prepared to diss the umpire for not making them stay at the cricket ground longer than need be.

Well, I for one think that India did the right thing not bullying West Indies. West Indies has enough problems and India is a nice enough team to let them enjoy an innings with two centuries and a high for the West Indies crowd. Beating West Indies would just be plain old bullying especially obliterating Chanderpaul's century headlines. I know this is treating West Indies cricket like a clueless child. On the other hand, champions show their colors when it matters, not to bully when they're already 1-0 up in the series and the frail opposition just mustered up it's best effort.

Posted by CricketChat on (July 14, 2011, 13:45 GMT)

My be Ind think tank thought they could lose the match in next 15 overs. Fidel was breathing fire, Rampaul is available again and Bishoo can get the same results as Harbhajan on 4th day. So, in a way, it shows the respect they had for WI bowling.

Posted by pagoda on (July 14, 2011, 13:31 GMT)

The only way to curb is to introduce a new LAW stating the scheduled play to be completed till the ens, weather permitting. Captains should not decide to withdraw before the end of the scheduled close-saif

Posted by CricketFreud on (July 14, 2011, 13:11 GMT)

sharda... india won the 20-20 match, odi series and the test series and you call them timid ??? when was the last time even a full strength indian team achieved such results away from home ?? if u r not aware of negative line bowling, zero field restrictions, milder bouncer regulations and various other nuances of test cricket, don't start mouthing off about 86 runs from 90 balls.. the match doesn't START there... u cannot score at 3 rpo for 30 overs and immediately switch to 6 rpo like magic... may be u need to pick a bat and face a length ball first...

Posted by Hindh on (July 14, 2011, 13:05 GMT)

India wont play the game for sharda ugra or any other authors here . they play in the best interest of the team and they won the series in the end which matters. It should be WI who should have gone for the win as they were 0-1 down not India..

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 12:49 GMT)

Stop blaming them for god's sake. It's a bit too much criticism for Team India on cricinfo.Strongly dislike the article.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (July 14, 2011, 12:48 GMT)

Sport isn't about forfeiting. Games of soccer aren't called off after 70mins because both teams are happy with the score at that time? If India didn't feel comfortable chasing down the total, they still should be made to play out the last 15 overs or until mathematically possible that neither team can win. To say the pitch was to slow, or it was too hard to score on a just give up really puts Test cricket in a bad light. Just imagine - 86 runs off 90 balls with 7 wkts in hand on a fifth day pitch - what a fantastic climax for a game! And India stop because it was too hard. Sport is about challenging yourself, not avoiding a challenge. Heartbreaking to people that love Test cricket.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (July 14, 2011, 12:47 GMT)

In one of the Tests against England some years ago, India had been set what was seen to be a difficult target. Dravid and Jaffer batted till luch absolutely serenely and were unconcerned about the rate of scoring. Just after tea, they had a reachable targetand they opened up. Then Jaffer got out, Irfan Pathan was sent in but he too got out. The chase was abandoned.Dravid may have been planning that this time too. But, the declaration came.One can find fault with Dhoni but he goes by his instinct, as he said sometime ago. If it was an instinctive decision to agree to call of the match,he cannot be faulted because he has won India many games based on this very instinct. Suppose for a minute it had crossed his mind that if the team lost 3 wickets, he would walk off then his actually doing so was driven by his instinct. The point is that if he had lost, he would have been crucified. M S Dhoni was the captain. Not anyone else. What is important is that he won the series.

Posted by chin-music on (July 14, 2011, 12:42 GMT)

Well said, Sharada ! Can't think of any overseas series victory which could have felt more hollow than this one. I am not sure if WI was necessarily a moral victor in the series, but India sure was the moral loser.

Posted by satyam.sharma on (July 14, 2011, 12:40 GMT)

(contd.) Having said all that, I completely agree with @PMCric. The blame, if any, should (1) first go to the bowlers and fielders who were unable to take out a number 10 batsman for almost 40 overs and (2) secondly to the top order batsmen who scored below 3 an over and made it a run-a-ball situation for the last hour of a fifth day pitch. Two facts are indisputable: 1 hour after the start of the fifth day, WI were only 100 ahead with only 2 wkts (tail at one end) in hand. And 1 hour before the end of the fifth day, India required 86 runs off 90 balls. The Indian team definitely did something wrong on the field *between* these two points, but the declaration-draw was not it.

Posted by Raki99 on (July 14, 2011, 12:39 GMT)

@every body , i think the series would have been easily 3-0 if not for the rain, Also don't forget the catches dropped by Dhoni in second innings that of baugh and chaderpual in the second innings by rahul dravid. but we can also say that dravid was dropped by sammy and that let us win the first test. Forget about critisizing the coach and captain, After all they haven't lost the series. Lets see their biggest test start next thrusday at lords. Let's not crusify them for their judgement since they are the one who knows and plays cricket proffesionaly.

Posted by CSK-FAN on (July 14, 2011, 12:38 GMT)

Iam clearly satisfied with Team India. In any sport: You can loose an advantage must be the first thing and You cant wait long under pressure. Simply India did that!

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 12:34 GMT)

Very well written, Sharda. I like your insightful thinking as well as your use of metaphor -- tree in the forest works so well here. Writer to writer, you are good.

Now if you and the other top writers (Sriram, Harsh, etc.) were to start writing more about the women's game, I think we would get more internet cricket fans on board. If Cricinfo started publishing women's cricket headlines on the top 3 headlines on the homepage, more fans would start following the women's game. Yes, a case of the media engineering a socially positive outcome. Insofar as anyone has the ability to pull this off, you do. Only very rarely does one media outlet have as much clout over coverage, as large a monopoly in its sphere of influence, as Cricinfo does in cricket.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 12:34 GMT)

@PM Cric: That batsman you speak of is known for grinding it out to produce gems. Why did Dhoni not promote himself and Raina (both attacking batsman) up the order and save Dravid and Laxman to shut shop later on? Did he not back his own ability? Sending Dravid in on the second ball of a chase with the board reading 0/1 isn't the most attacking decision by a captain, is it now?

Posted by satyam.sharma on (July 14, 2011, 12:31 GMT)

This Indian team that toured the West Indies was "the second-string team from the country that also possesses the world number 1 team". Notice how the above phrase is semantically nonequivalent to "the world number 1 team". @manikolbe's logic (or lack of it) is incredibly naive: "... lose 3 or 4 quick wickets but you are not going to lose the game because it is easy to defend remaining 8 or 10 overs even if the wickets fall". Wow, I don't even know where to begin. If only test cricket were as easy as pushing pen on paper, all of us would have been a Bradman or a Sobers. None of the batsmen to come were in supreme form nor did they have tons of runs behind them during the tour. And once the tail is exposed, anything's possible. No point being an extreme fanatic frothing at the mouth wanting victory in every single game. Comparisons with the Australian team of 2000s are pointless. Even the first-string "world number 1" Indian team isn't as good or dominant as the Aussies were in 2007.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 12:27 GMT)

All this grumbling about the chase that never was, but why is no-one pointing the finger at the brainless lack of urgency in India's out cricket? When Fidel came in to bat WI led by only 113 with eight wickets down. During his 157-minute vigil India's over rate was 14.14 overs per hour, and that was with the spinners bowling more than half the overs. That's where the push for victory stalled.

Posted by gentlemans-game on (July 14, 2011, 12:17 GMT)

1. I get the feeling the Indian team was not clear what they wanted to do when they looked at 180 from 47 overs. I'm not sure they had a clear objective - go for a win? settle for a draw? They probably said "let's see what happens, and take it as it goes". Soon they found themselves in the situation that PMCric points out, and packed it in. If a captain knows not where he wants to go, no wind is favourable. 2. As the world's No.1 test side, they have an opportunity to stamp their trademark on the game. Quite apart from "champion sides not giving up", etc. the Indian side needs to display a brand of behaviour, attitude, application, consistency etc. that will soon set new benchmarks. Professional cop-out doesn't quite sit well. They've got to the No.1 position, now they should occupy it more convincingly.

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (July 14, 2011, 12:03 GMT)

"Criticism of the Indian team is these days often hollered down by their more extreme "faithful"" Thank you for being brave and honest enough to say that. And let me say that too often that hollering down can often become annoying, rude and a hinderance to WHOLESOME debate and discussion.

Posted by FMK84 on (July 14, 2011, 11:59 GMT)

As a considered opinion (sometime after the event) from a veteran sports journalist this article shows a lack of cricketing brains. Laxman and Dravid had done nothing in the innings till then to inspire confidence of chasing at 6 an over in the captain. Dhoni is our best over the last 30 years and if some people expect him to play amateur or gully cricket instead of the professional international variety it cannot be his fault. And pls. do not claim to write for the non test player world - I dont agree. Lastly we should be hailing the achievements of a depleted team rather than crying about the attitude of the no. 1 team (what is that anyway). If u want thrill a minute action and closely fought results every match without context or sense of occassion watch T20.

Posted by vasu_m_r on (July 14, 2011, 11:49 GMT)

It's a reality that in both the last two tests, about 100+ overs were lost. Both could have been won by India. Deciding not to lose a test match is not such a bad thing (maybe not from the fan's viewpoint but definitely from a professional viewpoint). Our side was second string with about 3 first choice batsmen and one first choice bowler missing.

Posted by Bajcloony on (July 14, 2011, 11:38 GMT)

I have observed that Sharda id very critical of Team India despite that witin a short period of 2-3 years under Dhoni they have only became the No. 1 Test Team but also won WC 2011 after 28 years so don't be so critical of the team and thicnk ratinally that although WI is an ordinary test team but Team india was also missing its 4-5 regualr & great players and one of the opnening batsman was debutant and got out on the very first ball and the other opener is only a replacement opener and not excelle, you are talking about Kohli whose highest score is the series was only 30 so how could have he gone in the niddle and straight away playing shots and you better know that chasing 6 runs an over on a 5th days typical sluggish pitch of WI is a huge asking of these guys, yes in presence of Sehwag, Gambhir and Tendulakr India would had definitely gone for the target. So don't be so critical of this Team, this Team has achieved those glories whcih any indian Team of the past couldn't acheived.

Posted by alexbraae on (July 14, 2011, 11:37 GMT)

Yeah, India showed a real disrespect to the West Indian fans who turned up in numbers for probably the first time in years. Please no more of this. Cricket fans want test cricket to survive.

Posted by PMCric on (July 14, 2011, 11:29 GMT)

The author's making the familiar mistake. Its all good to blame Dhoni & Fletcher for calling it off at 86 off 15 overs and its probably warranted, what we need to focus is on how we got there when we we started out needing 180 from 47 overs. How can we score 94 off 32 overs and then expect a further 86 off 15? How can a batsman so accomplished technically, so experienced, ex-captain make 34 off 90 balls while his struggling young teammate was getting out trying to force the issue.

Posted by Jim1207 on (July 14, 2011, 11:26 GMT)

Why don't you play for Indian women's team and make it world no.1?

Posted by manikolbe on (July 14, 2011, 11:15 GMT)

I completely agree with you Sharda. Fletcher was saying it easy to defend on this pitch as Edwards demonstrated, but timing the balll was not easy. If that so, why would they don't even tried scoring? I mean the worst case is to loose 3 or 4 quick wickets, but you are not going to loose the game as it is easy to defend the remaining 8 or 10 overs if the wickers fall. Cowards! I dont get the logic behind it!

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 11:14 GMT)

@sharda: relax a little.. the last time a captain didn't pursue follow on, we lost rahul dravid... and its too soon to start judging fletcher, dont you think? reality is west indies as a team surprised team India ....

perhaps we shouldn't expect them to be winning just cause they'r #1..

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