Series Loss Staring at India as England Win Kolkata Test
By Denzil Fernandes
Dec 9: All the hype and hysterical drama of India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (MSD) prior to the third test in Kolkata were uncalled for with hosts England silencing India with a clinical victory. Despite a so called tailor made pitch in Kolkata which Dhoni has asked for, India were nowhere in the Kolkata Test and were outplayed on their way to utter defeat.
A thoroughly professional display by England against India was proof enough to show that the visitors are a cut above their hosts. All the home advantage and spinner friendly theories should now go into the coffin to gather dust permanently. If you are good, then you should be able to show your class whatever the pitch or conditions may be. England amply showed that by defeating India by seven wickets in the third Test at Kolkata with almost a day to spare convincingly. Like in the earlier Mumbai Test, the all round contribution was instrumental in giving England a 2-1 lead in the series and possibly a series win if they manage to avoid defeat in the final test in Nagpur.
England prepared well for the India tour with a training camp in the UAE under sub continental type of conditions and were also well supported by their coaching staff which included former Pakistan spinner Mushtaq Ahmed to guide the spinners.
England skipper Alastair Cook led from the front like in his earlier innings both in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Cool as a cucumber, Cook is now the leading run getter for England with 23 centuries against his name having amassed more than 7000 runs in the history of the game as the youngest player breaking Tendulkar’s record.
While England move on to record some historical wins in India in the ongoing series, one is pained to see the shoddy display by the Indians. There is no fire in the bowling department and no one is capable of taking early wickets in the game. That they are unable to dislodge Cook easily was clear when both their pacers and spinners failed to create an impression on the opponents. As luck would have it, Cook was dismissed in Kolkata via a bizarre run out which was most unexpected. Cook hammered 190 runs during his stay at the wicket giving England a match winning total of 596 when their innings ended. Almost all their batsmen chipped in with strong scores against a meaningless Indian bowling. The visitors were helped by the pathetic fielding by the hosts including dropped catches by Pujara and Sharma.
In Kolkata, India began their innings with a high degree of unpredictability and even the score of 316 runs all out came almost unexpectedly. Gambhir (60), Yuvraj (32) and skipper Dhoni (52) along with Tendulkar’s 76 runs contributed for a poor first innings total of 316 runs when a big total would have made a lot of difference. One hoped that Gambhir and Tendulkar would bat for a while and pile up the runs after being well set. England, in reply, made a solid start with Cook and Compton playing with a steady bat and taming the Indian bowlers. All the first four batsman for England recorded at least half centuries if not more. Cook (190), Compton (57), Trott (87) and Pietersen (54) meant business for an impressive total of 523 runs. Ojha got 4 wickets while giving away 142 runs, Ashwin 3 wickets for 183 runs and the pacers one wicket each. England had surely taken the upperhand with a match winning lead of 207 runs when they finished their first innings.
India in their second innings had to play for two days to save the Test and began well with 86 runs on board coming from the openers Gambhir (40) and Sehwag (49) in quick time. Spinner Swann however started the damage removing Sehwag with the team total at 86 runs. Thereafter, one saw a procession and when tea was taken on day four India had nosedived to 145 for 6 wickets. Except for Ashwin (91 not out) there was not another batsman who could face the England bowlers confidently. Both their spinners and pacers worked in perfect tandem and shared the spoils to rout the Indians on a perfect pitch. The Indians did not put their head down and fell meekly and cheaply too for 247 runs in the second innings. England picked up the winning runs although they lost 3 quick wickets including skipper Cook against some tight spin bowling by Ojha and Ashwin. Bell (28 not out) along with opener Compton (9 not out) saw them home with a 7 wicket win.
India’s batting star over so many years, Sachin Tendulkar who would have walked down the pitch for the last time in his career in Kolkata could not negotiate the turn from Swann and gave a catch to Trott while scoring 5 poor runs. On the whole, all the batsmen except Ashwin turned out to be non performers. One should note that Ashwin’s place in the team is purely as a bowler but he has starred as a star batsman for India throughout the series.
At times, it seemed as if there was only one serious team playing in Kolkata. Such was England’s dominance captained by super cool Cook whose players rose to the occasion admirably. For Team India, despite all the noise and nonsense about home grown pitches there was nothing to show in their on field display. Instantly, one was taken back to England and Australia where India toured earlier in 2011-12 and were routed by the opposition. With no penetrating bowling India cannot expect to go far. Added to that is the hapless fielding where except a couple, no one is able to stand up as a quality fielder. Their running between the wickets is a cause for concern. (see how Sehwag was run out in Kolkata in the first innings and Pujara in the second innings)
Whether the selectors will continue with the same set of non performers for the final Test in Nagpur is a question which they have to answer quickly. The selectors failed when they did not pick new blood for the Test in Kolkata when they had seen India soundly drubbed in the Mumbai Test. It is time for Ishant Sharma to have a clean hair cut and relax in the spa to get back his rhythm and rhyme. In place of Ishant Sharma there was always a scope to try young Dinda while Manoj Tiwari would have been ideal in place of Yuvraj Singh. It should be curtains for mumbaikars Zaheer Khan and Sachin Tendulkar just as the last Test concludes if the selectors show some kind of courage in their decisions. Chairman of selectors, Sandeep Patil should not worry about his fellow mumbaikars too much and take some bold action. His team should inject fresh and young blood in the form of Tiwary, Chawla, Raina, Jadeja, Dhawan, Mishra, Rohit and other young turks who can at least gain from the home experience. Pacer Umesh Yadav needs to be taken care and played sensibly to avoid any more injuries or breakdown. One shudders to think what will happen when Australia will be landing with full force with their battery of speedsters who are all one better than the other just as the England team departs after their encounter with the Indians. A repeat win for the Australians is not ruled out against the Indians in the series in the New Year.
Despite home advantage and such all powerful backing from the officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) team India stands to go down the rankings in no time. Dhoni needs to be given a break from his duties and a fresh captain may be able to come up with a few new ideas and a breath of fresh air too. Possibly, Virhat Kohli with his India under 19 captain’s experience earlier could bring in a welcome change. Dhoni still needs to be around as a wicketkeeper but there should be fresh ideas on the field and a new set of young players who can run and chase. There are tough decisions to be made if Team India has to get back their rankings to a higher level.
England will now head to Nagpur for the final encounter where Cook made his Test debut in 2006 with a century. He has already scored more Test centuries than any other English batsman. As captain, Cook has a great once in a lifetime chance to beat India in India. Since 2004 no team has achieved that and England have not done that from 1984-84. Here is a golden chance for Cook to set another record as captain.
With India down in the series, England will be celebrating their well earned lead now. They have fought back well and come back with a winning combination. It is difficult to imagine Cook and his boys allowing India to come back to terms in the final Test at Nagpur and level the series. Team India have a great task to silence their critics. But it is going to be an impossible one to say the least. Unless, of couse, they come up with an astonishing show in Nagpur. There cannot be a better time for India than to win handsomely at Nagpur in the fourth and final Test starting on Dec.13 and level the series.
Right now, though, Team India is in the dumps.
Wake up, India and square the series.