India turned themselves in

Pitch Guard: Dhoni brought down to earth

By making a pitch for a pitch of his liking, Mahendra Singh Dhoni got punched by the same punching bag that he was toying with. He went on to say that his spinners bowled short and slow, allowing the English batsmen to thrive on the back foot. But to say that Pragyan Ojha and R.Ashwin didn’t bowl as well as Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann would be a very wrong turn to take. It was in fact the batting that was responsible for the loss in Mumbai. Both English and Indian that is.

So have the three lions stolen the whip from the ring master?

Yes. Kevin Pietersen showed how the vicious turn in the pitch could be negated, as he used his feet, to make room and play the ball late. Importantly, he made it a point to attack, making it clear that he was the one who would be dictating terms. The reverse sweep was used to good effect, and its conventional cousin was used to send the ball to the fence, despite the presence of a fielder at leg slip.

On the other hand, Alastair Cook used his ‘get-behind-the-ball’ technique well, making full use of the room that the spinners were offering him, driving and cutting the ball like nobody was watching. When it was sent down short, the man rocked back and forth, and pulled off the stroke, to make sure that his counterpart’s team stayed behind at all times. In short, they did everything that India should have.

Monty Panesar managed to ‘double click’ Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin in the match, engaging them in a little bit of cat-and-mouse, before luring them into the trap. That he managed to beat Sachin Tendulkar all ends up, showed that he was writing two stories at the same time.

Graeme Swann wasn’t left behind either, making sure that he enjoyed a good day in the office at the expense of the Indian batsmen. When a team’s second-best bowler takes eight wickets in the match, what chance would the opposition have. That he forced Virat Kohli to hit a full toss straight to the fielder in the second inning, showed that two wrongs sometimes do make a right.

India long considered to be the best players of spin, seem to be putting their best foot forward, bat in tow. That doesn’t seem to be such a good idea, given the number of close-in fielders that Alastair Cook likes to place around the batsmen. If they want to avoid a repeat of Mumbai in Kolkata, then they need to stop playing safe by going on the defensive, for that way the bowler has the edge and a wicket.

Once upon a time, stonewalling a bowler was what batting was all about in test cricket. But against a bowling side that wants to attack all the time, it would be important to stay on the balls of one’s feet, and use them to hit the ball over the fence once in a while. Just to force the bowler to go over his plans once more, and release some pressure. That England’s batsmen managed to hit seven sixes, while India’s tail-enders managed just three doesn’t tell a story at all.
But what it shows us is that one team played with a lot more freedom. Sometimes that’s the difference between winning and losing.

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