London: Mike Brearley, a great among captains, spoke to The Telegraph (at The Oval) on Sunday.
Q Just about a month ago, you’d showered much praise on India. From the outside, what do you think went wrong?
A (Smiles) Yes, I did say the team looked robust and motivated...I’ve been surprised. There can be situations of ebb and flow, but the degree of the turnaround has left me without an answer. Just goes to show that there are mysteries in the game... It’s a mystery how, from a high, India crumbled.
Seems so. As I’ve said, it’s hard to explain.
India turned defensive in Southampton, the Test after Lord’s. That was quite the wrong thing to do...
I wonder why that happened... Somehow, I didn’t find India looking as the team with a 1-0 lead.
Immediately after the loss in Southampton, India suffered another blow when their charge against James Anderson wasn’t upheld. Did that play a role?
Possibly... Look, I don’t know how the Indians took it. Did they take on the victim-mentality? Even if they did, it wasn’t the victim-mentality of Israel. Having suffered in the years gone by, the Israelis hit back hard. They’ve vowed to do so... I’m not privy to the discussions in the India dressing room.
Vice-captain Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, key batsmen both, failed...
Kohli has a technical issue... He’s following the ball. That said, he also got some very good deliveries. Pujara, I thought, batted well in phases... But, then, you’re judged on your contribution.
What did you make of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy?
I’m not a big fan of Dhoni the captain.
Because there are times when Dhoni lets things drift... His response is regimented.
What would you tell Dhoni?
That is (coach) Duncan Fletcher’s job. He has to do the talking... The Board, however, must prepare pitches which will test batsmen. Flat ones are of no use.
Is Alastair Cook improving as captain?
I hope so!
England’s spectacular comeback was largely driven by Anderson and Stuart Broad... Are they England’s finest pair of all time?
Well, the finest if the wicket has something to offer. In helpful conditions I’d place them ahead of Bob Willis-Ian Botham and Steve Harmison-Matthew Hoggard. I’m not going back to the earlier generations, though.
You must be delighted with Gary Ballance and Joe Root...
They’ve done exceedingly well and do look good for a long innings in the England cap. Root had a hard winter, in the Ashes, but has come back strong. That’s character.
Is Root captaincy material?
I do get that impression, yes.
Lastly... Any advice, in general, for India?
Perhaps, it won’t be a bad idea if the younger players get exposed to County cricket. They’ll learn and the experience can only help.