Virender Sehwag's run-out says a lot about the tentativeness and lack of confidence currently afflicting India. They had got off to a solid start, were 47 for 0 after 10 overs, when their most positive batsman had just played a lovely whip off the pads, the deep square-leg fielder had to run a long way to his left and dive to keep the ball from reaching the midwicket boundary, and yet Sehwag's partner didn't want to take a third run. Mistakes happen in cricket, but Gautam Gambhir's explanation for what happened said a lot about the team's mindset.
"I thought that was not the situation to take the third run, a risky run," Gambhir said. "I was watching the ball, and I was thinking it was in his hand, I thought rather than taking the arm on… The ball was in his hand, taking the run on the throw was dicey. After watching the replay I realised the third run was on, but we were thinking that the kind of situation we were in, it was not important that we go for a [un]necessary risky run."
The fact, though, is, as Gambhir acknowledged, this was a regulation three, and so circumspect were India that they thought it was a risk taking it. Well, at least one of them did. As it often happens with India, Sehwag's wicket brought a turnaround. The run-rate dropped, England bowled to a plan, and India weren't patient enough.
"Obviously when that kind of a dismissal happens, it starts playing on your mind," Gambhir said. "You have done all the hard work, you have won the toss, there was something for the bowlers early on, the ball was swinging, you have got 47 on the board, you have done all the hard work, and suddenly losing your partner through a run-put plays on your mind."
One of the casualties of the slide was Gambhir himself, who made a second good start but couldn't convert it into a definitive innings. He will be gutted with this. He is now three possible innings from having gone three years without a Test century. Whatever he might say about centuries not mattering to him as much as contributing to the team, this has got to play on his mind.
Gambhir is an intense cricketer, and he will know that more than the missing centuries, it's the sub-30 average over the period of three years that is hurting his reputation. He can't afford to waste starts. "It was disappointing," he said. "Not only from my personal point of view, but from the team's point of view as well. As an opening batsman, if you get a start, you want to score big runs.
"You don't want to put hundreds on your record, you want to put the team in a position from where they can dominate. If you ask me personally, I am more disappointed from the team's point of view rather than my personal point of view. Someone had to bat long and put a big score, and I got set and I got a start and I should have continued playing a big innings, but these things happen, this is what cricket is all about."
Gambhir also said Test cricket was all about comebacks, and it was reverse swing that India were banking on. "I think it's an even day, even contest," he said. "You can't say it has gone in England's favour. The wicket has something for everyone. Especially for the fast bowlers, if you see once it starts reversing it becomes difficult. It reverses big. If we can put 350 on the board, it's going to be a big contest."
That brings into picture another struggling Indian player, who has perhaps been most crucial to India's success since Anil Kumble's retirement. If the ball has reversed alarmingly for England, Zaheer Khan won't get a better opportunity to strike form.
"They [England] showed it was reversing big, and we all know Zaheer Khan is a master of reverse swing so if he gets going it is going to be very difficult for England," Gambhir said. "Hopefully Zaheer Khan and Ishant can do the job for us. This is the wicket where there will be something for everyone, for fast bowlers as well. It has carry, and at times up and down, and it was reversing big. It has enough for the fast bowlers."