India in England: Selection Headaches for MS Dhoni Ahead of Fourth Test
MS Dhoni and his men take on England in the fourth Test at Old Trafford. The series is currently level at 1-1 with two matches left to play.
India were soundly beaten in the Southampton Test, losing by 266 runs at the Rose Bowl. (India Eye Redemption in Manchester)
Set to get 445 runs on a deteriorating pitch, India did not even attempt to save the Test by defying the England attack, having lost four wickets by the end of the fourth day, and caved-in in the morning session on the fifth day.
India were bowled out for 330 in the first innings and 178 in the second to allow England to square the five-Test series 1-1. The visitors clearly looked out of depth on a pitch which saw England cumulatively amassing 773 runs in the two innings. (India Ponder Options)
More than their fickle batting, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni must be worried more about the bowlers' capability to take 20 wickets at a reasonable rate.
Not for the first time has this sort of thing happened to India. They could manage to take 20 wickets in an overseas Test only four times in their last 15 Tests. On three of those four occasions, those 20 wickets cost India more than their batsmen could score.
And the other instance was on this tour, at Lord's. However, two of India's match-winners from that game, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, are doubtful starters for Old Trafford.
While Ishant has been ruled out, Bhuvneshwar barely participated in the first nets session Tuesday with a swollen ankle.
In the absence of the two premier pacers, Dhoni might have to rely on one-Test-old Pankaj Singh -- who on his debut at Rose Bowl went wicketless, Varun Aaron -- yet to play a match on the tour, and Mohammed Shami.
Shami will have to shoulder the bowling attack -- but can Dhoni pin his hope on a bowler, who has taken five wickets at 73.20? His economy rate of 3.81, too, has been the worst among specialist bowlers.
And then there is the worrying factor of Shikhar Dhawan's batting form. The Delhi batsmen has been woefully short of runs and his place in the side is no longer a guarantee.
Dhawan is in danger of losing his place to his Delhi teammate Gautam Gambhir, who last played a Test for India in early 2012, in Nagpur against England.
Many have also questioned the reasoning behind the omission of India's premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Ravindra Jadeja has looked a far cry from being regarded as India's first choice spinner in Tests.
While Moeen Ali, a part-time English spinner, took eight wickets in the third Test -- six of these coming in the second innings, Jadeja could manage just five on the same pitch.
The left-arm spinner bowled 45 overs in the first innings, bagging just two wickets.
England, meanwhile, have all the momentum going for them. The hosts ended a winless run of ten Tests, which began in August last year, with a dominant performance.
It was almost the perfect Test. Not only did England's out-of-form batsmen -- and under pressure captain Alastair Cook and Ian Bell -- make big runs but upcoming star Gary Ballance and debutant Jos Buttler were highly impressive.
Another heartening fact is the performance of Moeen Ali, solving their spin problem.