Selection and tactics are critical to winning Test matches and series. So far neither side has come close to getting their selections right but India has at least displayed some tactical nous to go one up over England. If India alleviates the selection blunders and the fast bowlers stay fit they have every chance of completing a rare overseas series win against an England side that's bordering on disarray.
England captain Alastair Cook (left) and his Indian counterpart MS Dhoni walk out to toss at Nottingham recently. Pic/Getty Images
Choosing an international team is about selecting the right type of players and finding the best combination. From the outset India spoke of playing five bowlers but that's not what they chose. For the first two Tests they played three seamers, a steady slow bowler and a bits and pieces cricketer.
India needed to revert to four front-line bowlers and strengthen the batting or choose a genuine fifth bowler in Ravi Ashwin. Ashwin is a far superior bowler to Stuart Binny and he'll also provide some lower order runs with his skill and temperament.
Apart from the fact that few of the England batsmen are in form they only have Ian Bell who can take control of an opposing attack. Currently the England's batting is unbalanced with too many grafters and in addition, MS Dhoni has cleverly implanted the peril of the short-pitched delivery in the minds of batsmen who are uncertain against the rising ball. If India don't overdo that tactic it could continue to prove fruitful.
England's selection mistakes are many but they revolve around the misguided assumption that Alastair Cook is the man to lead them in a "brave new world". It should have been obvious following the Ashes disaster that Cook is not the leader to pit against the aggressive Australian Michael Clarke. While England isn't tackling Australia in this series they will be next season and part of smart selecting is planning ahead, as well as choosing for the present.
England is now stuck with Cook, because the hierarchy has unwisely invested too much in "their man" and they have few alternatives. Consequently, the team continues to falter when they get into a strong position. While Cook maintains "a captain is only as good as his team," the job of a leader is to make his side better and that's not happening with England.
Cook runs out of ideas very quickly and this shows up alarmingly when the opposition starts to take control. Also his lack of influence over the bowlers is palpable, as they appear to go on a bouncer spree at the first hint of frustration and Cook is then unable to stop the situation spiraling out of control. Contrast that with Dhoni who at Lord's successfully cajoled his experienced fast bowler Ishant Sharma into bombarding the England lower order players with short-pitched deliveries.
Opponents are now aware of Cook's inadequacies and are quick to take advantage. If an England team that's in denial could spare a moment of brutal honesty they'd probably also admit they're aware of Cook's fatal flaw.
It's now reached the stage where the captaincy woes are weighing heavily on Cook's mind when he's batting, The England selectors are also guilty of picking batsmen who might experience success against lesser sides but will struggle against the stronger attacks.
Sam Robson looks very limited, Gary Ballance is a fighter with the right spirit but he's too restricted in his stroke play to bat at three against a strong attack. And it's hard to believe Moeen Ali has made it to the highest level with a glaring weakness against the short-pitched ball. Ali's bad habit of taking his eye of the short-pitched ball will lead to even further trouble against the more pacy attacks.
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