There was something shockingly similar between India’s batting performance at Old Trafford, and here at The Oval on the first day of the final Test. The batsmen came in and kept getting out one after the other, as Ravi Shastri would call it – a procession of wickets. The effort by the Indians was downright embarrassing, and even that sounds like an understatement. Except for Indian skipper MS Dhoni, no one showed the expertise to occupy the crease for long period. And, had it not been for a fighting last-wicket partnership between Dhoni and Ishant Sharma, India wouldn’t have reached even hundred.
The manner in which they kept gifting their wickets away, it just seemed that the Indian batsmen have completely lost the plot. Dhoni was unlucky again with the toss, and the conditions were tough to bat on. Still, it must be said that India did not show any aptitude to fight it out. They just looked to be making up the numbers, disinterested in the fact that there was a Test series to be saved. It must be said that England’s bowlers have completely exposed Indian batsmen’s technique and temperament as well.
The mode of Indian batsmen’s dismissals stood testimony to India’s lack of assuredness under the given conditions. In the very first over, a completely low on confidence Gautam Gambhir played a confused stroke to be dismissed straight away. The dismissal set the tone of the innings for India, and things just kept getting worse for them from there onwards. One really cannot comprehend the logic behind bringing Gambhir back into the Indian team for the tough tour. He hasn’t scored many runs at the domestic level, and IPL shouldn’t have been seen as an indicator of his form. His game has only gone from poor to worse.
Rest of India’s batsmen were also woefully out of form going into the series, and the same reflected in their shambolic performances. Cheteshwar Pujara is known to be a good technician, but England got through his defence rather easily. The manner of Pujara’s dismissal, as well as his shocking reaction on being cleaned up was reflective of how England’s bowlers have had his number in the series. The same can be said of Virat Kohli. He just did not know how to deal with the moving ball, and was once again trumped. Unfortunately, their only in-form batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay also seem to have given up on the team.
Looking back, India’s spineless batting on the third day of the Old Trafford Test had a massive negative impact on them. They ended up losing nine wickets in less than a session, and lost the match in under three days in spite of almost half of the second day being lost to rain. It poured heavily for the next two days. Had India survived day three, the match could have ended in a draw, and might have gone into The Oval with the series still level. Post the loss, Dhoni stated it didn’t matter in how many days they lost. Like the rest, the Indian skipper also had lost the plot, completely.
--By A Cricket Analyst