India looking to tweak the screws further

Mumbai, Nov. 23 -- When Virender Sehwag's turn came to bat in the nets on the eve of the second Test on Thursday, he didn't as much as glance at the centre wicket adjacent to the net.

He kept his spare bat behind the stumps, didn't even ask for guard and straightaway started taking on the bowlers. As he batted first against the spinners, and later against the pacers, the usual fluency was missing.

He neither tonked the deliveries against the slow bowlers nor did he send the pace bowlers on a leather hunt. According to his standards, it was a subdued outing.

It doesn't mean that he will not massacre the England attack and get a big hundred in his 100th Test, at the Wankhede Stadium. That is Sehwag for you. He may or may not be getting runs but his confidence is unshakeable.

Different approach

As skipper MS Dhoni nicely put it while talking about the senior pro: "All those who have shared the dressing room with him realise that his mindset is very different.

He is very positive and bats with instinct. It doesn't matter if the wicket is turning or seaming. He only looks to score runs.

It doesn't really matter whether he is in form or not. He just keeps thinking positive. He was working a lot on his batting, but his approach remains the same. It is the mindset that really helps you get back into the game."

If some of the struggling England batsmen are looking for examples, they will do well to study the India opener. For, if they can calm their nerves and get rid of self-doubts, India can be one of the best places for batsmen.

From the time the England squad's flight took off from London, all the talk has been about Indian wickets. It speaks volumes about the mindset.

Sensing the vulnerability, the India captain has been not shy of playing mind games. His statements on having wickets which will turn from the first ball has more to do with playing on the nerves of the opposition than any logic.

Lifting morale

The main challenge for the England captain will be to lift the morale of the side after a heavy defeat.

"There is a loss of confidence when you get beaten heavily, but it's a quick turnaround and it's a chance for us to pull it off. We must try and learn from what happened last week and play better," said Alastair Cook.

Cook was clear that if his team has to make a comeback in the second Test, putting a big total on the board would be the key.

"The first innings runs are crucial. I spoke about it in Ahmedab-ad, as that's where we lost the game. We have spoken about it here as well. We know it's going to be important here," said Cook.

What hurt England the most in the opener was the below-par showing of Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott.

It's strange that KP is a different player while playing with Sehwag in the Delhi Daredevils team.

Here, he is giving the impression of a batsman who doesn't know where his next run will come from, especially while facing a left-arm spinner.

Right balance

The Wankhede wicket will offer assistance to spinners but batsmen who are positive will enjoy its bounce too.

Cook and Co can also take some confidence that India's leading spinner R Ashwin is not at the top of his game.

The off-spinner surprisingly didn't make much of an impression in the second innings in Ahmedabad and will be under some pressure in the Mumbai game as Harbhajan Singh is breathing down his neck.

The first thing in the morning, the ground-staff shaved some more grass off the wicket and they are expected to trim it further before handing over the wicket to the match referee.

Apart from Sehwag, the limelight will be on Sachin Tendulkar, for whom it could be one of his last games on his home ground. He will be under some pressure, as he has not fired for four innings in a row at home.

It's an important game for Dhoni. If India win, he will equal Sourav Ganguly's record of 21 wins, the most by an India captain.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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