In their second innings of the final Test in England, India folded out for 94 in 29.2 overs and lost the match by an innings and 244 runs. It was the India’s fourth consecutive sub-200 innings total, following the disasters in Southampton and Manchester. And it was the final nail in the coffin as they lost the series 1-3 to England despite leading 1-0 after two Tests.
MS Dhoni said although this loss is disappointing, it is not as much so as the 0-4 whitewash in 2011. “The 2011 was worse than this because then we had the resources but still we failed. After the first two Tests the batting performance kept on sliding and we never got the runs needed to compete and remain in the game.
Dhoni said he did implement what he learned in 2011 as a captain but the inexperienced bowling attack made things tricky. However, the skipper said with a bit more experience this bowling attack is capable of winning overseas Test matches for India.
“I have implemented what I learned in the 2011 series in terms of tactics but the team’s setup has changed completely.
“Our bowlers are very different from the English bowlers, who keep hitting the same areas, which means you may have spent 30 minutes at the crease but you’ve hardly scored any runs. It’s only Broad and Anderson who attack initially and the change bowlers are happy to bowl the consistent line and length. That’s when the batsmen need to understand that he needs to play these phases out.
“We don’t have fast bowlers who do channel bowling. The reason is that in the subcontinent they don’t bowl 20 overs in day. So whenever they bowl, their psyche is to go for the wickets. They change their length very quickly instead of sticking the same area.
“The more they play the better they will get. They will understand the conditions better and respect the fact that they can plan the batsmen out and get wickets by bowling in partnerships,” Dhonis said.
He praised Ishant for his improvement and hoped the others would follow suit. “Ishant has really improved on that front. He keeps hitting one area and is patient with his line and length. When needed, he can play the attacking role as well. These are the things that come with experience. Hopefully we won’t have any major injuries with this set of fast bowlers and they will gain that experience.”
Talking about his pacers, Dhoni said one of the biggest lessons he has learnt from his first five-match Test series as captain is the importance of keeping the fast bowlers fresh.
“A five-Test series is a very long one. After the first two-three Tests I realized it is important to give the fast bowlers a break,” he said.
“Ishant got one because he got injured. We rotated other bowlers – Pankaj got two games and Ishant came back. We replaced Shami with Varun.
“Bhuvi was the only bowler who played all five Tests and you can see the difference in his performance in the first and the last match. This is a lesson we have learned in the five-Test series. There are many other things we have learned and it is now important that those lessons in our minds and keep practicing them especially when we go for Test series abroad.”
The biggest disappointment for India in this series was their batting. Except Vijay and Rahane in the first couple of matches, none of the top five batsmen made any noteworthy contribution. The captain said some batsmen are working on the technical aspect of their batting and that it will take time to come through.
“We are looking at the technical aspect of some batsmen but it doesn’t happen overnight. The batsman needs to be comfortable with the new technique to use it in a match. I have been working on something minute since November and it was only in the Manchester Test that I was able to implement it during a game, although I was very comfortable doing it in the practice sessions,” he said.
Dhoni was also in favour of some of his batsmen going to England to play county cricket in order to get used to the conditions and wickets.
“Those who are playing only Test cricket, if they have some time and get good contracts, can come here and play in county cricket, especially the batsmen,” Dhoni said. “Unless you have played here, it is very difficult to just practice outside and saying, okay this will work here.
Spending some time here has helped many overseas batsmen from West Indies, Australia and even the Indian ex-cricketers. That is something we can look forward to but it is difficult for those who are playing both Tests and ODIs.”
While both India and England are seen as teams in transition, Dhoni felt England were much richer in resources than his team.
“It is interesting that people say England is a developing team but their players have played 470-odd Test matches among them. We are going through the same stage and we have barely 230-240 games among us,” Dhoni said.
“I think England have good resources. They have the perfect combination of bowling attack. They have two decent pace bowlers who can bat and also Moeen Ali, who you will see picking up many more wickets in the future if the conditions favour him and holding one end up if needed. Having five bowlers is important and you can only have that if you have one perfect all-rounder or a couple of them who can bowl at decent pace and bat a bit. They have experience in their batting and also players who can play their shots as well as stay at the crease. So when it comes to the resources, they are a very good side.
When asked about his team’s inability to last even 30 overs in their second innings at the Oval, Dhoni said, “It was the reflection of the failure of our batting lineup. Vijay scored runs in the first two matches but we never had a good opening partnership and kept exposing our No. 3 batsman very early in the innings. Virat has been in lean patch as well. It becomes difficult when your top four-five don’t perform especially when you’re playing six batsmen including the keeper.”
The Indian skipper said the team do realize their mistakes and weaknesses and promised they will come back stronger.
“It is important to accept the mistakes you re making in order to move ahead. It is not that we don’t accept our flaws, we do. But it takes time to make the technical adjustments. We are in the process of correcting those flaws and hopefully we will be back after a few changes.”