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How Dhoni got a taste of his own medicine

Last updated on: November 26, 2012 21:07 IST

How Dhoni got a taste of his own medicine

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Bikash Mohapatra analyses what went wrong for India, and right for England, in the just-concluded second Test in Mumbai.

Hopefully we will see the wicket turn in the coming matches: MS Dhoni, after the Motera Test.

India's captain put forth his demand. The curators at the Wankhede stadium were more than happy to oblige. But the England team, instead of capitulating in the face of the challenge, stood up to it.

The visitors' comprehensive 10-wicket over the hosts in the second Test not only helped them level the series, but also doused hope of an Indian whitewash.

Since India got thrashed 0-4 in the corresponding fixture last year, the talk has generally been about exacting revenge.

Even the number of Tests in the ongoing series is the same as it was when India toured England. No wonder the retribution bit has been taken a bit too seriously.

It's no shame to admit the media went overboard in hyping the series. At the same time, it can't be denied that it is demand that regulates supply.

It needn't be told that the Indian public can't get enough of cricket, even if there's palpable monotony in watching the same team play throughout the year.


Image: England team celebrates after winning a Test match
Photographs: Getty Images

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A 4-0 sweep looked a possibility

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So it happened. England landed in India, a little over a year after that unforgettable decimation.

A lot had changed. England had lost their No.1 status -- to South Africa. They lost their captain (Andrew Strauss). And their invincibility.

In fact, their performance in the subcontinent -- in the series' against Pakistan (lost 0-3) and Sri Lanka (drew 1-1 largely due to Kevin Pietersen's brilliance – fueled the expectations of Indian fans and the Fourth Estate alike.

A 4-0 sweep looked a possibility.

The opening Test in Motera went according to plan, India winning it by nine wickets. However, the English resistance in the second innings -- having been dismissed for a paltry 191 in the first -- left India's captain disappointed with the wicket.

If England could play to their strengths and prepare tracks that have seam and bounce, thereby putting India in a quagmire, the hosts could also return favour, he reasoned.


Image: Monty Panesar
Photographs: Getty Images

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'Equal chance of winning'

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Dhoni's strategy was simple: prepare a wicket that offered turn from Day One. 'It is a risk. Maybe the match will get over in three days,' he explained, adding, 'But at least both the teams will have an equal chance of winning.'

The captain had his say. The wicket at the Wankhede was a rank turner. Indian went into the match with three regular spinners: the very effective Pragyan Ojha, the highly-rated R Ashwin and a veteran returning from a 15-month exile (Harbhajan Singh).

To make things worse for England, Alastair Cook didn't get it right with the coin. Cheteshwar Pujara's magnificent 135 helped India put up a solid total (337) first up.

It was all England thereafter.


Image: MS Dhoni
Photographs: Getty Images

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Pietersen's awe-inspiring knock

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Cook contributed his second straight hundred, a magnificent 122. Pietersen put behind the demons of Motera -- where he endured dual failure -- to score an awe-inspiring 186.

The duo put together 206 runs for the third wicket to help the visitors take a 86-run first innings lead. Then their spinners took over.

If Graeme Swann continued with his good work from Motera -- picking eight wickets in the match -- it was Monty Panesar who was a revelation, claiming 11, as India were dismissed for a measly 142 in the second innings, its batsman completely clueless against spin.

Knocking up the required 58 runs was cakewalk for England and they pocketed the Test with more than five sessions to spare.

All hopes of an Indian clean sweep were up in smoke. The hosts got a taste of their own medicine and fell into the pit they so meticulously dug for the visitors.


Image: Kevin Pietersen
Photographs: Getty Images

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'Definitely outplayed'

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Dhoni was left with no option, but admit that his team was 'definitely outplayed'.

His tactics of a turning track, and playing three spinners, boomeranged. Of the three spinners, only Ojha (five for 143) delivered.

Ashwin proved yet again that there's more hype to him than performance. As regards, Harbhajan, suffice to say everyone, save the management have realized that he's a spent force, and that his playing in a match can ensure some shenanigans, and maybe controversy, but definitely not wickets.

It again reiterated the fact that Team India isn't exactly immune against spin, traditionally its strength. Without going further back, there are more recent examples of the team's fallibility against the turning ball?

Remember the meek capitulation to Ajantha Mendis in Sri Lanka in 2008? Or, for that matter, Swann spinning a web at The Oval last year?

With a clean sweep now a pipe-dream, Team India has to now go back to the drawing board to ensure there is no encore of the Wankhede debacle.

Dhoni needs to think of new strategy ahead of the Eden Test. Or, maybe, a new excuse?


Image: R Ashwin


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