Team India: Report Card from Manchester

As I write this on a day that was supposed to be the fifth morning of the Old Trafford Test, I can’t imagine how Dhoni found humour in his “at least we have two extra days of rest” joke at the post-match conference. A lot of his clueless, senseless and absolutely shameless post-match remarks were probably down to his favourite cliché “Lack of options”, a burden that he seems to have brought upon his team over the last three years of test cricket.

 

There has been no worse team overseas since 2011, and there won’t be another World Champion team with such a dismal test record. Let us analyze what went wrong with the team at Manchester after they elected to BAT on a green top.

Gautam Gambhir (4 & 18)—3/10
Making his comeback to Test cricket after two years in place of Dhawan, Gambhir showed no signs of the steely determination that had made him a force to reckon with at the top for half a decade. His angled bat was immediately exposed in the first innings, and it was interesting to note how Cook placed his slip fielders closer than usual, in stark contrast to Dhoni’s conventional cordon positions. Gambhir’s second innings was a bit more determined, but his technique was exposed after he failed to duck an Anderson’s body-bouncer, meekly gloving it to the keeper. He may have one final chance to prove he still has it, at the Oval.

Murali Vijay (0 & 18)—2/10
His purple patch seems to have ended, and his failures coincide with his team’s destruction—a sign of how crucial he is at the top to hand them a good start. The opening pair in tests for India haven’t put on 50 for more than 11 tests abroad now, and this is a worrying sign for Pujara—who has literally been thrust in as an opener in these conditions. Dravid did this with great success in 2011, but everybody is not a Dravid. Vijay must stop being so casual in his slip fielding too, and must realize that a century early on doesn’t rid him of responsibility for the rest of the series. He seemed as clueless against the moving ball as anyone else.


Cheteshwar Pujara (0 & 17)—1/10

The biggest disappointment of India’s last two overseas tours so far. He had reached a position before the New Zealand tour where his was the only permanent and safe batting place in the line-up, but two consecutive series failures puts him in a dire position—where he is only being retained because there is no better or more experienced option. Sources say that there is a constant coldness and power struggle between Kohli and Pujara in tests—where they barely acknowledge eachother for reasons best known to them. It is time to put their heads together and prove that their reputation wasn’t a joke. They have one test to do so.


Virat Kohli (0 & 7)—0/10

No marks for Kohli, as he continues to struggle and live the pre-2012 Test days where he was dropped after an unsuccessful West Indies test series in 2011. Perhaps selecting him back in 2011 for the 0-4 whitewash would have been good for this series. At least he’d have failed and probably learned from his mistakes. Now we will have to wait for the next English tour to see if he has learned. I wonder what Duncan Fletcher’s role is, though, where Kohli’s technique against Anderson has only gotten worse over 8 innings.

Ajinkya Rahane (24 & 1)—3/10
He could have done so much more in the first innings, before a terrible second-innings dismissal where he drove the ball back to bowler Ali. He still looks the most assured of the young batsmen, but forms part of a slip cordon that has cost more runs than their entire team has scored in this test.


MS Dhoni (71 & 27)—5/10

Succeeded with the bat to an extent, but wasn’t ever in charge enough to pull his team out of the jaws of defeat. In ODIs, when Dhoni’s playing a lone hand with bat, the opposition never rests and is under constant pressure. In tests though, one feels that it is only a matter of time—maybe it is his body language or constant struggle. He doesn’t bat instinctively, and his leadership skills leave much to be desired. His field placings and bowling changes confounded everybody during England’s second half of the innings, and someone higher up must tell him that he is a BAD test captain. He should be replaced at the earliest. “Lack of options” isn’t a viable excuse anymore because even Dhoni was thrust into captaincy when there were no options. It was an instinctive decision like that of putting Graeme Smith in charge of a hurt South African team, and “hurt” is the keyword, because from the ashes often rise the greatest decisions.

Ravindra Jadeja (0 & 4; 1/36)—2/10
Dhoni’s unparalleled love for him is the only reason he is still in the test team. Dhoni fails to notice that he is an invaluable option on home pitches but is just as useless overseas as Ashwin is as a bowler. His batting is even worse though, and only goes to show the low level of Ranji cricket where a batsman like him has scored 3 triple centuries. He needs to be dropped and replaced by Rohit Sharma for the Oval Test, only to be taught a lesson.

R. Ashwin (40 & 46*; 0/29)—5/10
The reason he was picked—to have an extra bowler in the lineup. Instead, he played the 7th batsman’s job (Rohit Sharma’s) even better than the rest of his teammates, and failed to take a wicket in 14 overs. It is a cruel joke for the management, where their off-spinner easily looks the best batsman out of the lot. This only proves that Jadeja can’t be picked as a bowler anymore, or as a batsman.

B. Kumar (0&10; 3/75)—6.5/10
He bowled well, and it isn’t of much concern that he failed with the bat because that wasn’t his job. He was one of the six ducks in the first innings, but more importantly showed movement with the ball to do a decent job. India needs him to bowl similarly in the last test, and hope that the batsmen wake up.


Varun Aaron (1&9; 3/97)—6/10

Expensive and careless, but hostile, and exactly what India needed Shami to do. He is a wicket-taker and can go for runs, but he intimidates and rattles. Just look at Moeen Ali’s wicket to see what Aaron is capable of and one fails to understand how he wasn’t picked in these conditions after the first test. He can bowl as fast as he wants, with Bhuvi holding up one hand with gentle deceptive swing.


Pankaj Singh (0&0; 2/113)—3/10

Finally got his wickets, but is also the prime reason as to why India is in such a downward spiral. Their sympathy for him knows no bounds, which is stupid, because he clearly isn’t good enough to play at this level. 2 wickets in 2 tests isn’t what you’d expect from a “big heart”, and with his height, he fails to get as much purchase as even Ishant does. It’d be good to try Ishwar Pandey in the final test.

Duncan Fletcher—0/10
He was one of the best coaches for England, and continues to remain a great coach for them even now. Under his leadership, India lost 0-4 in 2011, 1-2 at Home in 2012 and now they’re losing again to his former boys. Clearly, England is a team that hopes their ex-coach is in charge of India for as long as possible.

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