India’s abject surrender to England in the fourth cricket Test at Old Trafford on Saturday meant that India’s dreams of going into this week’s fifth and final Test of the Pataudi Trophy at the Oval evaporated in Manchester’s brilliant sunshine.
After a devastating first innings, in which M S Dhoni’s team were bowled out for 152 on the opening day itself, the Indians folded for 161 in just 43 overs in their second innings. Even in one-day internationals, where they claim to be very proficient, this is a feeble score.
So, what’s wrong with the team that has now lost four of the last seven Tests against England? At the heart of the problem is the batting top order which, though talented, has been made to look bereft of survival skills.
Sure, India dished out a wondrous performance in the second Test at Lord’s, but on more difficult pitches, like the one at Manchester, they have lacked in defence and application.
Technical issues can be worked on; ill luck can be accepted in the ebb and flow of sport; good deliveries as well. But, when aspects like application and passion are questioned by experts who have played at the highest level, you know there is something amiss.
Very rarely has India batted so unskillfully and recklessly in both innings of a Test match. The fact that they were 66 for six at one stage in both the innings paints a sad, gloomy picture. That a part-time spinner like Moeen Ali plays a role in two successive wins for his team reflects on the opposition more than his ‘magical’ skills. It’s like the West Indies, in their pomp, losing two Tests on the trot to pace bowling.
India’s poor show provides more ammunition to the critics from other countries. Many of them will reckon that India are intoxicated by Twenty20 cricket, and that the batsmen are satisfied by 30s and 40s. To twist the knife further, they will opine that Test cricket is taken lightly because the Indians no longer play it for a living in the glitzy Twenty20 age. However demeaning and off-target that criticism would sound to India, the fact is that the team, through their horrific Manchester show, has provided a wide canvas to paint a depressing picture.