Rahul Dravid's 100th Test turned out to be a bitterly disappointing one
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Rahul Dravid's 100th Test turned out to be a bitterly disappointing one, and at the post-match press conference, the captain admitted that his decision to field first at Mumbai was a mistake. However, he stressed that the result could still have been a better one had the top-order batsmen done their job.
"Yes, in hindsight when you look at the result of the game definitely I would have changed the decision I made right upfront," he stated. Clarifying the reasons for the move, he said: "We'd taken five bowlers, and we had three seamers, and we thought there'd be a bit more bounce and seam movement early. We thought we could get a few wickets there, restrict them to a low score, and then bat big in the first innings to set the game up. It didn't do as much as we expected in the first session, they batted well, and once they'd got 270 for 3 on the first day we knew we were on the back foot."
Dravid refused to accept, though, that the decision at the toss was the major reason for the defeat. "Obviously the decision to bowl wasn't the right one, but having said that we could have lost the toss and we would have fielded in any case. We could have played much better cricket, especially our batting in both innings, I think the top-order batting has let us down right through the series. We did well to recover to 279, but then again in the second innings I don't think this was a 100-all-out wicket."
Going into the final day, Dravid indicated that he was satisfied with the position India were in. "I was very happy with the way we bowled yesterday. Our bowlers did a great job to restrict them and I was very happy with the situation as it was in the morning. I thought if we could get to lunch and to tea with wickets in hand, we could really have a crack at the target in the last session. It's not easy to chase 300 in the last innings especially in India when the ball is turning and a bit of reverse-swing happening. I think we did ok till lunch. Then losing those two wickets in the first two overs after lunch was really the killer blow."
After Dravid's and Tendulkar's dismissal, the rest of the Indian batting caved in a shockingly spineless display. Dravid attributed that to "wrong options under pressure". "Some of the shots we played weren't up to mark, but when you're put under pressure that can happen sometimes."
Expectedly, the move to go into the game with five bowlers came in for comment, but Dravid stressed the need to move in that direction, especially if the aim was to start winning outside India. "We feel that going ahead and looking at some of our results in away series, five bowlers is quite important to our combination. You can argue that if we had only four bowlers we might have given more runs in the first innings, or we wouldn't have been able to bowl as well as we did in the second. We do weigh the pros and cons of six batsmen, but if we want to win a series abroad and if we want to be competitive as a team as England have shown in the Ashes and even here, then we do need five bowlers."
Along with top-order batting, the other area of serious concern for India was their catching: of the 16 chances missed in the game, ten were from Indian fielders, and Dravid admitted that the performance in the field was a let-down. "The situation would have been quite different had we held our catches. We're working on it. With a few changes in our combinations, some of the fielders in specialist positions have moved out and the boys not fielding in specialist positions have to work on it. We have five batsmen, so all of them should be good catchers; we can't expect bowlers to be catching in the slips."
The big finds of the series were Munaf Patel, who took 10 wickets at 21.70, and Sreesanth (nine at 25.66). Dravid had a word of praise for them, and also for Anil Kumble and Wasim Jaffer. "Our bowlers - Munaf and Sreesanth - came good for us. They showed good spirit and it's a good sign for the future. A group of three-four bowlers are bowling with good pace, in good areas, showing good attitude. So that's one of the pluses in the series. Anil bowled brilliantly and batted well too, while Wasim looked composed as an opener."
Finally, he was all praise for Andrew Flintoff, England's captain and Man of the Series. "He was phenomenal and truly deserved the Man-of-the-Series award. Every time he went out, he scored runs, was their best bowler on view right through the series and kept coming hard. I think he did a great job as a captain in his first series and he's truly shown why is the greatest allrounder in the world at the moment."
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo