India cannot seem to find their 'A' game against England while the visitors are on the rise. Here are some of the moments from Day 2 of the third Test match in Kolkata.
India seems alien in home conditions
The brain does not even allow to call them 'Team India' with the way the series has gone so far. Even when they won the first Test match at Ahmedabad, it was not as convincing a victory as it could have been. Contrary to that, England took the first innings at Motera in their stride and used it as a catapult rather than deflating themselves. It is safe to say that the visitors have worked harder on their game both on field and in the mind than the much touted hosts after that, and it's showing.
When South Africa batted first here in 2010, India bowled them out for 296 and scored 643/6 declared to romp home to an innings victory. When India batted first against West Indies in 2011, India made a massive 631/7 declared and again forced an innings victory. But for a massive fightback, it seems, that will be repeated on India here. What has gone wrong? May be it is the absence of people like Laxman, Dravid, Kumble and an in form Harbhajan. But let's give credit to a certain Mr. Cook who has just been the most inspirational skipper and opening batsman.
Little moments decide bigger outcomes
During India's batting in the first innings here, all was going well at the end of 10 overs with the score at 45/0. Sehwag was looking settled and increasingly dangerous for the Englishmen. That is when Gambhir or some would say Viru had that moment of madness and what resulted was disaster. It is well documented that India rely heavily (far too much) on the dashing Najafgarh batsman for giving the run-rate a major boost and after his return, none of the others (so called best players of spin) were willing to give something back to the bowlers.
The moment came for India too while fielding. Captain Cook was batting on 17 when he edged one off Zaheer Khan to Cheteshwar Pujara (what were you doing with the shin pads on then Sir) at first slip. The Saurashtra youngster could not hold on. Who knows what might have happened if that catch was taken. Both the teams do not have a whole bunch of batsmen in form and are relying heavily on a couple (India on Sehwag, Gambhir. England on Cook, Pietersen). On such a pitch, these are the clinching moments, and England are making most of theirs as of now.
Panesar does to India what Kumble did to others
It has been the talking point in the series so far and just might continue to be too. Why are the Indian spinners not as effective as their England counterparts? It can be a combination of factors. 1- They have not bowled well enough in terms of length, line and speeds. 2- The batsmen have been much more pro-active for England than for India. Sometimes, bowlers are as good as batsmen make them out to be. On a flat Kolkata pitch, Indian top-order could have been aggressive and things could have become different.
In the morning session when India needed a good rearguard action from tailenders, Monty did what not very long back Indian spinners did to visiting batsman. Zaheer trapped right in front while Ishant yorked himself. It almost seemed as if (discount the bowling hand) Kumble was bowling to Hoggard and Harmison. Despite Dhoni's efforts, India managed a paltry 316.
The return of Sundries and an indifferent Sehwag
India had bowled (apart from byes and legbyes) just the two wides in the first two Test matches. With the return of Ishant Sharma, all was set to change. Still, it took a long time coming (England were 121/0) and hardly has any effect on the overall match situation. By the end of day's play though, there were 2 no-balls in the extras column and both from the 'foot' of Ishant Sharma.
What was more concerning for India though was the fielding and lack of interest on the field despite the situation demanding the opposite. One special mention goes to Sehwag. He might have had some niggle on his hand or finger (never stood in the slips to pacers) but the way he let a Cook shot go through his hands at covers was appalling to say the very least. And his reaction on camera was of no remorse at all. It is hard to compare an Indian side to Aussies but safe to say that if Ricky Ponting would have done what Sehwag did, he would have been thoroughly disappointed (on camera also).
Without being too harsh, fresh ideas, fresh legs are required to boost India in Test arena. While comparisons (again) are not easy to make but Dhoni has not even been a shadow of his past even as Cook continues to lead from the front. Selectors and BCCI should seriously think for a change at the helm in the longest format of the game. Without taking names, a few others should also introspect as to what their inputs to the team are. It is always easy to say that 'fans should stand by when team is going through a bad phase' but think of the Kolkata fans who were rooting for you throughout the pain inflicted upon them.
P.S.: To end on a good note, the match is still not over and miracles happen in sport. Also, it is difficult for us too to churn these 'moments' out on such deflating days for the team. So, please bear with us, or rather, Team India.