India were completely outplayed in the second test match and as a result, find themselves 0-2 down in the test series after 2 matches. Once again, the match has been lost by the batsmen. Some may point out that India were 67 runs ahead in the first innings before they allowed England to make 500-odd in the second innings and so lost the match. But in my opinion, where India lost the match is in the first innings with the bat where we failed to get around 400 or so that would closed out defeat as an option or at least made defeat as a remote possibility. With those runs behind them, who knows the bowlers may have bowled better and we might have restricted England to much less than what they eventually got. The quality that distinguishes great teams from the good and ordinary ones is the streak of ruthlessness. It is a streak that England are currently displaying and it is no wonder that they are at the doorstep of becoming the number 1 test side in the world.
It is true that the Indian bowlers allowed England to come back after having them 124 for 8, but even 221 was not a good score on this track. The pitch held no demons, the odd ball misbehaved and the ball was swinging, but even that was less on day 2 and 3 compared to day 1. In England, usually the best days for batting are days 2 and 3, especially if the days are sunny and warm like they were in Trent Bridge. And in this test match, and partly in Lord's, India got to bat in better conditions in the first innings. Having bowled England for 221, they had no business to get bowled out for 288. This is where they should have exhibited the ruthless streak that is the hallmark of great teams like Australia of the early 2000s, West Indies of the late 70s and the 80s, and the current England side. Unfortunately, India never showed the ruthless streak even when they became the number 1 test side and held on to the spot over the past one year. Their number 1 ranking was achieved on the back of some sterling comeback performances and dominant batting. When the bowlers got England out for 221, it was the perfect stage for the much-vaunted batting lineup to bat to their full potential and setup the match for India. But they failed to do that and only Dravid once again showed the class in batting with some support from Yuvraj and Laxman. One of the positives to come out of the 2 test matches has been the return to form of Dravid. He has once again started looking like the Dravid of old, grinding down the opposition and rescuing India from embarrassing situations.
The other big difference between the 2 sides has been the scoring rate. I had mentioned in my previous test review that India should score quicker to put pressure on England's bowling and at the rate at which they are scoring, England's bowlers operate in the comfort that even if it takes time to get this Indian team out, there is not much damage being done in the mean time because runs are coming so slowly. It is not surprising that England's bowlers looked a little vulnerable only when the batsmen were scoring runs quickly - whether it was Dravid and Yuvraj going after Swann in the first innings or when PK and Harbhajan were swinging their bat merrily late in the second innings. I am surprised at the slow rate at which the famed Indian lineup is scoring. Strauss has set attacking fields at most times in this series, which means there are runs to be had if batsmen play positively. This is why the person I am missing the most in this series is not Zak, but Veeru. Even if he does not score too many runs, when he is at the crease, he forces the opposition captain to think different and a little defensively. I am praying hard that Veeru can play in the third test. If Zak is fully fit as well, I would like to think that the Indian team will be significantly stronger than they are right now and should pose a much tougher challenge for the England team.
The other change I would make is, bring Amit Mishra for Harbhajan. It is time we do away with convention and think of Harbhajan as our lead spinner. In his current form, he does not deserve a place even though he has 2 hundreds from the number 8 position. At this point, Dhoni and the selectors should think about how they can challenge the England team differently since obviously what they are doing right now is not working and England are brushing aside India like some lowly number 7 or 8 team instead of the top team that they are. If Veeru, Gauti and Zak can come back, that will test England, but Amit Mishra will also pose different challenges to them. I know he can leak runs, but then even Swann was not economical or threatening in the second test. If Dhoni has the right field for him with some catchers and some in the deep, maybe Mishra can even buy a couple of wickets by throwing the ball up and having the England batsmen hit to the boundary fielders.
Right now, I am looking at the 2-day game at Northampton, mainly to see whether Veeru, Gauti and Zak are fit and ready for the third test. If that happens, it would lift the spirits of all Indian fans ahead of the all-important third test which India must win to stay alive in the series and to give themselves a better chance of holding on to the number 1 ranking. One of the positives of the second test was the fact that we bowled out England twice in the match. So the bowlers have shown that they can take 20 wickets. Yes, I know they took 20 wickets giving away 765 runs, but like I wrote earlier, if India had made around 400 in the first innings, maybe the bowlers could have bowled with more confidence and restricted England to 350 or so in the second innings.
Lets hear it from you guys now. What do you think about India's performance in this match ? What do you think are India's chances of drawing the series and/or holding on to the number 1 ranking ? I will try to post before the third test since there is a big gap of 9 days before it starts. But lets hear what you think.