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Absence of leaders in the group has hurt India, says David Lloyd

‘Not sure whether Dhoni is totally enamoured by Test cricket’
EXCLUSIVE
David Lloyd

London: David Lloyd, former England batsman and coach, spoke to The Telegraph at The Oval on Sunday morning.

Now 67, Lloyd is remembered for an unbeaten double hundred (at Edgbaston) against India when Ajit Wadekar’s men toured England in 1974.

Excerpts...

Q The performances aside, have you found a difference between the present crop of batsmen from India and the earlier generations which toured England?

A Not a lot, really... I feel India’s best was when Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid played together (in 1996, 2002 and 2007). They were quick learners and quick to adapt to English conditions. They had a method.

What would you describe as ‘English conditions’?

A grassy, firm pitch with pace and bounce. And, the fast bowler having a Dukes in his hand. Traditionally, Indian batsmen have found it hard to cope with such conditions.

Because of the wickets?

Yes. You can’t come from featherbeds to pitches with pace and bounce. Old Trafford had a grassy pitch with pace and bounce and the Indians got found out.

But the Indians didn’t have too much of an issue at Lord’s, which had a greentop...

Lord’s had a good covering of grass which had a green tinge... Old Trafford had greentops in the 1960s... Trent Bridge in the later years... Of course, I’m not trying to dilute India’s win.

When the conditions are challenging, isn’t some luck required?

Sure, but you can’t depend on luck alone.

Is too much T20 cricket harming batsmen?

Look, I don’t wish to get into the IPL thing, but Test cricket demands a certain discipline. You don’t just turn up at a Test match, hoping to do well. You have to put in the hours and have to be focused. Batsmen have got to look to leave balls and wait to knock the bad ones away. Look at the way Gary Ballance has been playing.

Cheteshwar Pujara was supposed to hold up India’s batting, yet he’s not delivered. What do you think is the reason?

Being overcautious... Pujara’s a wonderful batsman, but has been found out outside off... Most people have been talking about India’s batting, but why not give credit to England’s bowling?

What’s happened to vice-captain Virat Kohli?

Kohli’s mind is at sixes and sevens. He’s among the outstanding batsmen of the present times, but he can’t buy a run in England! He’s a superstar back in India, but it’s time for him to reflect on how to improve... Kohli has also been found wanting outside off and is chronically short on confidence. It’s not a technical issue, for good players don’t become bad during the course of one series, but a mental thing. Kohli’s had to come in rather early and (James) Anderson has been relentless. I can’t believe England have subdued him for five Tests in succession. Let me add that great batsmen know where their off-stump is.

So, what would you tell Kohli?

Reflect on what has been happening... Believe in your abilities... Do the right things and (for a while) try and get away from the game... In the immediate context, Kohli must be waiting for the ODIs to begin. That format should act as a release for him.

But can cricketers, particularly from India, actually get away from the game?

Cricket is no more than a game and should be treated as such... I know that a lot of the Indians see cricket as the be all and end all of everything. I don’t.

Amid the Indian ruins, has there still been a batsman who has stood out?

Ajinkya Rahane scored a brilliant 103 at Lord’s. He wore down Anderson and Stuart Broad and showed how to bat in English conditions. Indeed, Rahane provided the template to work on. Sadly, from India’s perspective, nobody took note.

Skill apart, what should touring teams have?

Leaders and happiness around the group.

Isn’t the India captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a leader?

Sure, Dhoni is. But I don’t find anybody else. Look at England... Matt Prior has taken a break, but Alastair Cook still has leaders in his team... Anderson, Broad... When the going isn’t good, you need generals to rally the troops around them. From the outside, I can say that the absence of leaders in the group has hurt India.

Dhoni’s captaincy, especially in the Southampton Test, has been criticised. Some feel he’s better suited for the ODIs and T20Is. Your views?

I have an opinion, but it’s not my business to say who should or who shouldn’t captain India in Test cricket... I’m not sure whether Dhoni is totally enamoured by the Test format. In limited overs cricket, though, he comes alive as a captain. There’s that spark.

Who, according to you, has been India’s No.1 captain?

Sourav Ganguly. He had the fire and I liked the way he stood up to England (in 2002). A good leader.

India’s No.1 batsman?

Rahul Dravid.

What set Dravid apart from the rest?

Consistency, application... Technique.

The final one... How was Cook able to turn it around after the disaster at Lord’s?

Cook’s own determination and the presence of leaders in his team. He could call upon senior mates to raise their game. They did.