1971 Oval Test skipper provides ailing India a prescription to win fifth Test
Former India skipper Ajit Wadekar wants Mahendra Singh Dhoni to rectify his "mistake" of dropping Shikhar Dhawan in favour of Gautam Gambhir if Team India aims to salvage some pride and draw the five-match Test series at the Oval.
Wadekar's team in 1971 beat Ray Illingworth's men at the Oval to become the first Indian side to win a Test series (1-0) in England.
"It was a mistake to drop Dhawan. It hurts if you have a player of Gambhir's experience waiting for his chance in the first three Tests. His mind wouldn't have been in a good state.
I think the team management should go back to Dhawan. I too had to take a tough call of dropping a top spinner like Erapalli Prasanna in 1971," Wadekar told mid-day yesterday.
'Need to get stronger'
"We have to realise that everything is not lost. We still have a chance to square the series. We have to emerge stronger from whatever has happened at Old Trafford," added the former India coach and manager.
Dhawan's poor form (122 runs in six innings) led to his dropping for the fourth Test where India were humiliated by England within three days at Old Trafford. But Dhawan's replacement was no different as Gambhir scored four and 18 in his comeback Test.
India opener Shikhar Dhawan during the second Test against England at Lord's recently. Pic/Getty Images
Wadekar insisted that India should enter the game with two spinners. And it was not difficult to see why. He too relied on the spin trio of Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and S Venkataraghavan to beat the Englishmen.
Chandrasekhar (6-38) demolished the hosts in their second innings as they were all out for 101 and set India a 173-run victory target. Wadekar's team achieved it with four wickets in hand.
"I don't see any need to change our bowling combination. (Ravichandran) Ashwin is also contributing as a batsman. With Ishant Sharma expected to return from injury, we have to drop Pankaj Singh, who was luckless in the series. The wicket at Oval will probably be to our liking. There is not too much of swing. We should bat aggressively," said Wadekar.
He said if Dhoni's men have to replicate the 1971 Oval Test win, the close-in fielders have to take catches. "One of the reasons we won at the Oval was we took almost all our catches. Catches by Venkat (to dismiss England opener Brian Luckhurst) and Eknath Solkar (to dismiss Knott) were terrific.
"It is shocking to see the likes of Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja dropping sitters at slips. What is the coach Duncan Fletcher doing?" asked Wadekar. He also urged Dhoni's men to go into the game without any distraction.
"I think we focused too much on the Jadeja-Anderson spat. We lost focus after the incident (at Trent Bridge). I hope the team regroups and moves on," he concluded.
Shikhar Dhawan's average in the ongoing series against England. The southpaw has scored 122 runs in 3 Tests