AR Hemant

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Somewhat of a contrarion.

The More Things Change…

There’s a thunderstorm predicted on Tuesday in Nottingham. India had to bat out 150-odd overs to save or win the Trent Bridge Test. But they had to survive only 60-odd overs on Monday.

It shouldn’t have been tough given how England’s lower order had piled the runs with ridiculous ease. But India’s left-handers fell to short balls, and the right-handers didn’t know what to do with in-swingers. They didn’t last 50 overs. If it rains tomorrow, it would be Jamaica all over again.

Things hinted at a strong English performance in this series. But we were so used to the strong Indian fightback, we expected better from the depleted, injury-hit side. So it is really not the defeat which rankles, it's the consummate ease with which England have won, and also India's inability to learn from mistakes.

MS Dhoni's comment after the game was jaw-dropping. Explaining India's inability to dislodge Stuart Broad on Day 1, he said his bowlers were tired.

I'm sorry.

Tired? After 50 overs? On the first day of a Test? Also, what was your spinner doing if the pacers were working so hard?

Note that if Zaheer Khan returns in Birmingham, it is one of the three pacers — who've aggregated a brilliant 27 wickets so far — will make way for the spinner who hasn't looked like harming an English batsman.

Dhoni himself pales in comparison to Matt Prior, who has been exceptional with bat and gloves. This is ironic. When India were here in 2007, Dhoni's batting and excellent footwork behind the stumps had set him apart from Prior, who had gathered attention only for his chirping at India's batsmen.

If Dhoni wasn't the captain he would struggle to get on the team on current form. His glovework has been sloppy since the Caribbean tour. In England, he hasn't been able to adjust to the late swing. And we know that batting well in pace-friendly conditions is not his strength.

The brave decision to recall Ian Bell apart, Dhoni's captaincy was also baffling. He set defensive fields to Broad on Day 1 when he should have gone for his jugular. On Day 3 and 4, he refused to put fielders out on the fence when he had to slow England down.

Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir may or may not return to the side immediately. Even if they do, don't expect miracles from players returning from injury. So, as India get to Birmingham, here's an idea worth a thought.

What about giving Wasim Jaffer a call? He has been playing league cricket in Birmingham and has even topped the run chart this season. Surely he would fare no worse than Abhinav Mukund, who is too raw to take on this England attack.

A word on Broad. He came into this series unsure about his place in the side. He will end it with comparisons to Botham and Flintoff. He has produced three match-turning performances in this series. How will India stop him?

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