In the last session of the third day of Old Trafford Test, India lost nine wickets for 128 runs. Before the close of play, they had lost the match by an innings and 54 runs. So, the fourth Test of the series got over under three days despite half of Day 2 being lost to rain.
With the shambolic performance, India now trail the series 1-2 with one Test to go.
Captain, MS Dhoni, too put the blame on his batsmen at the end of the match. “What is important is to put runs on the board,” he said. “To some extent the performance of No. 8, 9, 10 and 11 so far in the series had camouflaged the question of the top order not performing.
“May be a few batsmen are having a lean period at the same time. But overall we will have to put more runs on the board so that the bowlers can get the opposition out,” Dhoni said.
Dhoni said it was all the more important for the top six batsmen to take more responsibilities since India have been playing with five bowlers.
“Batting department will have to improve especially since we are playing a batter less. That extra bowler is actually contributing both with ball and bat. Still the top 5 or 6 batters will have to get more runs to make the bowlers feel more comfortable.”
The reason behind India fielding a batsman less is the presence of Ravindra Jadeja at No. 7. Except his madcap fifty in the second innings at Lord’s, which was more a desperate attempt to hit himself in form, Jadeja’s contribution in the series with bat and ball has been 88 runs and nine wickets. He averages 22.12 with the bat and 46.66 with the ball.
However, Dhoni made it clear that he has no intention of dropping Jadeja any time soon. “The problem is who do you have to replace him?” Dhoni reasoned.
“Again you will fall back on the same thing of going with an extra batter and not having that fifth bowler when you really need him. That is how he plays. The more he plays the better he will get. We are hoping that it happens soon. We have seen glimpses of it. He will have to back himself to play the same kind of cricket. That is something that will give him the confidence. Hopefully he will keep hitting the ball.”
One alarming aspect of India’s batting collapses in the last two Tests has been their inability to negotiate England’s part-time off-spinner. Moeen Ali has been all over the Indian batsmen like a rash in the second innings of both matches. At Old Trafford, he had second innings figures of 13-3-39-4.
However, the Indian skipper doesn’t think it is a pressing issue. “It is important to be positive. We will lose a few wickets. He is quite a consistent bowler. He keeps pitching in the same areas. He is quite good and uses the drift. At the same time we will have to put pressure back on him. If in doing you lose a few wickets that is still good for you because that pushes the opposition to use their fast bowlers more. That is something we will have to follow.
When asked the reason why Ali has been more successful than the Indian spinner, Dhoni said, “He has his own trajectory. He keeps bowling in one area and is quite willing to bowl that way. Our bowlers are different. They have their own way of bowling. Moeen is very persistent with his lengths. The odd ball turns and the others are just straight. He wants to keep it very tight. And if you want to take him on you can try your luck otherwise he may get a wicket.”
Dhoni, who scored 71 and 27 in the Test, said the wicket was not as bad as India’s scores of 152 and 161 suggested. “I personally never felt it was a quick wicket,” he said. “It had a bit of bounce. Some of the other wickets were slightly tougher because of the variable bounce and bit of extra swing for the fast bowlers. This was one of the good wickets.
“Once you see off the first 20-25 overs, when the ball is hard and new, it gets relatively better to bat. You just have to pull the bowler towards you rather than going outside off and looking for the big shot. If you can look to push them to bowl to you actually you can control the swing much better and you can play your strokes.
“That is something to an extent we lacked. Also the fact we lost six wickets in the first half an hour and that had a very big impact on the game. A lot of things had consequences in this Test match. Hopefully we will learn and move into the next one which I feel will be very important to us.”