Revenge can wait, Team India is playing for pride
The on-going Tests against England was touted as a revenge series for India. A lot was expected of captain MS Dhoni and the seniors, but they have been anything but inspiring. With their dismal show Team India has fallen to its nadir. After losing the third Test in Kolkata on Sunday, the team needs some intense introspection and is left playing for pride, writes Rediff.com's Bikash Mohapatra.
There will be no revenge.
The visiting England team has done enough to ensure the idea of vengeance -- in the minds of a billion-plus Indians since the start of the series -- takes a back seat.
In fact, it would be a commendable achievement if Team India manages to save pride.
Ever since MS Dhoni's men got hammered in England last year, it had been all about giving it back. They were the favourites going into the series, but belied all expectations, suffering a 4-0 whitewash and losing the No 1 Test ranking to their conquerors, many believed Team India would return the compliment in the corresponding series this year.
The conditions would be favourable, they argued. Besides, the perennial English susceptibility to spin was also mentioned time and again.
Image: Team India
England came to India on the back of poor performances
The fact that England got blanked by Pakistan (3-0) in the Test series in Dubai, and struggled to draw against Sri Lanka subsequently, in similar conditions, further bolstered the argument.
Another shocking loss at home to South Africa meant the latter replaced them atop the ranking. Besides, the captaincy had to change hands, a much younger Alastair Cook took over from the forced-to-retire Andrew Strauss.
England had no chance. They had had such a disastrous year. How could they win in such hostile conditions?
With Team India winning the opener in Ahmedabad quite comfortably, it meant the ball was set rolling. A repeat whitewash was on the cards and retribution on the verge of being attained.Many were busy writing England's obituary.
Image: Alastair Cook
Dhoni demanded turners to take advantage of England's weakness vs spin
However, it proved to be a rather premature assessment, for things started going terribly wrong for the home team.
A horrendous first innings effort at Motera cost the visitors the opening Test. But they did enough in their second innings to give Dhoni something to worry about.
India's captain was critical of the flat wicket.
'I don't want to see this wicket again,' he said, after the match.
He wanted pitches that would turn from the first day, and went to the extent of providing an explanation to corroborate his demand.
'Maybe the match will get over in three or four days. But at least both the teams will have equal chances,' he argued.His message to the curators was clear: India should take advantage of the English players' frailty against spin.
Image: MS Dhoni
England spun a web around clueless Indian batsmen
When Team India toured England last year, they were made to play on wickets that offered movement. Consequently, the weakness of the Indian batsmen, accustomed to playing on flat wickets, was laid bare.
It was time for India to make the England batsmen play on wickets that had traditionally left them clueless.
The curator at the Wankhede stadium, the venue of the second Test, obliged. And indeed, as Dhoni had predicted -- the match got over with more than five sessions to spare.
The only glitch was England won.
Team India had their choice of wicket, went into the match with three regular spinners, won the toss and even put up a healthy total in their first innings.
But England, instead of caving in, retaliated. Their batsmen, Kevin Pietersen and Cook in particular, took the attack to the opposition to help them take the lead. And their spinners -- Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann -- outperformed their Indian counterparts, sharing 19 of the 20 Indian wickets to fall.Dhoni's strategy had backfired!
Image: Monty Panesar
Photographs: Getty Images
England won successive Tests on Indian soil in 27 years
England secured their first Test win on Indian soil since 2006, coincidentally at the same venue. More importantly, they had nullified India's advantage.
In the third Test, at the Eden Gardens, they consolidated their position further, with another comprehensive win. The result, the first time England won back-to-back Tests on Indian soil in 27 years; it ensured they will not lose the series.
More importantly, it was the first time in a dozen years -- since losing successive Tests in Mumbai and Bangalore against South Africa in 2000 -- that India had lost two Test matches back-to-back at home.Dhoni and his team are reeling under the effects of the dual disaster. The English had beaten them in their own yard, in their own game.
Image: England team celebrates after winning the Kolkata Test on Sunday
Indian players have some introspection to do
England made Team India pay a heavy price for underestimating them. Complacency saw the team being humiliated in England last year. Considering they were playing at home this time, keeping their reputation at stake, the extent of the damage suffered cannot be quantified.
Introspection isn't something the supposed infallible players of this Indian team are very fond of, but should one take stock, it becomes apparent the whole team, save Cheteshwar Pujara and Pragyan Ojha, failed to deliver.The experienced openers failed to score in tandem, the famed middle order -- including a fast fading legend (Sachin Tendulkar) -- flattered to deceive. The spinners weren't as effective, and about the quicks, the less said the better.
Image: R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha
Dhoni the main culprit
However, what should worry fans most is an underperforming captain. A failure with the bat, erratic behind the stumps and indecisive on the field, Dhoni did absolutely nothing to regain his reputation that has taken considerable beating in recent times.
While it's become apparent that the seniors -- Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan -- are there in the squad only on reputation, the captain is still reaping the benefits of his initial success.
What should concern more is the misplaced attitude of the youngsters, the likes of Virat Kohli and R Ashwin, who have let early success get into their heads.
The present team also points out at the authority, rather lack of it, of the selectors. They are required to pick teams based on reputation and whims, not performances.
They cannot do anything about the big names and the only changes they incorporate, are cosmetic in nature.
The team bound for Nagpur is no different. Imagining a Parwinder Awana or a Piyush Chawla making the cut is a pipedream!
Image: MS Dhoni
England have a real shot at winning a series in India since 1984-85
Suffice to say, before making changes in the team, the entire selection process has to be altered.
Having said that, we are all aware nothing ever will change in Indian cricket.
Credit to England though, for defying the odds. The twin wins have given them a genuine chance of pocketing a first series win on Indian soil since David Gower's team did so back in the 1984-85 series.
The historical antecedent means Indians don't like losing against England, definitely not at home. The fourth Test in Nagpur, starting Thursday, thereby assumes greater significance.
If Team India wins, it can square the series. Should England win, they would have inflicted double humiliation on their hosts in just over a year.That would be a bitter pill to swallow.
Image: Alastair Cook with ECB Chairman, Giles Clarke