Rarely do India find themselves in such a difficult position at home. Over the years, they have easily overcome tough opponents like Australia and England courtesy some great batting and skilled spin bowling in suitable conditions. For some reason though, current Indian skipper M S Dhoni has been adamant on rank turners, and the result so far has been a major embarrassment at Wankhede Stadium. In conditions tailor-made for the home side, the English spinners and batsmen walked away with all the plaudits, beating India at their own game.
The Mumbai loss was a clear-cut case of the Indians giving too much prominence to the surface. One thought they would have learnt their lessons post that debacle. However, Dhoni’s continued persistence on spinning tracks has been rankling. Is the Indian captain sticking to his wrong stand in spite of the embarrassment at Mumbai only because his ego doesn’t allow him to admit he was wrong? From the outside at least it seems the case. It was clear during the second Test that the present Indian batsmen aren’t well equipped to play quality spin on a surface where the ball does plenty.
In contrast to India’s performance at Mumbai, they were lot more at home in Ahmedabad, where the pitch wastypically sub-continental, making batting rather easily in the initial few days, before deteriorating slowly. It was strange that Dhoni criticised the surface at Motera in spite of India having won the contest quite comfortably. His contention was that there wasn’t enough in the pitch for his bowlers to exploit in the fourth innings. The actual reason, however, for India failing to clean up the Englishmen swiftly in their second innings at Motera was that their bowlers weren’t good enough. Also, England put up a much more resilient effort in their second essay there.
Dhoni’s sudden fascination for turning tracks is rather puzzling. Remember, this is the same captain cool, who led India to a number of series victories at home at his peak, against Australia, England, New Zealand and West Indies, without ever bringing into focus the surface. This of course was a couple of seasons back, when India were playing most of their games at home. There is of course a big difference between then and now. VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar’s slump hadn’t begun by then, and Rahul Dravid was just recovering from an extended lean spell. Among the bowlers as well, Zaheer Khan was at his fittest while Harbhajan Singh hadn’t lost his zing by then.
So much has changed since India’s horrible visit to England in mid-2011. Since that series embarrassment, Dhoni’s captaincy skills have taken a definite beating, and it is evident by the bizarre statements he is making these days. One can understand Dhoni’s desperation to outdo England in home conditions. At the same time, he must remember that it is players and not the pitch that will make the difference. The truth about Mumbai was that India’s batsmen were clueless against spin. The only way they can make amends is by showing better application at Eden Gardens.
--By A Cricket Analyst