Calcutta: Shane Warne once ‘joked’ that Sachin Tendulkar had given him nightmares. It would not come as a surprise if the Indian bowlers have the same complaint about Alastair Cook.
It was another harrowing day, another day of toilů The Indians offered all the resistance of a wet tissue paper at the Eden on Friday as England galloped to a position from where only a miracle can save Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men from going 1-2 down in the series.
At close, India were 193 runs in arrears, with England, at 509 for six, looking unlikely to declare on Saturday morning.
India have not lost two Tests in a row at home since the series against Australia in 2004-05 and that streak seems destined to end in the next couple of days unless the batsmen find form, a possibility that looks bleak in the current circumstances.
The Indians were back to their unprofitable, profligate ways as England continued to pile on the agony. Cook was run out in a bizarre fashion after 492 minutes, and it seemed that was the only way the Indians could see him back.
The England captain missed his double hundred by ten runs while completing 26 hours of batting in this series. Exhibiting the concentration of a Grandmaster, he foiled whatever the Indians threw at him. There was no grandeur in his batting and no gesture either, only the substance of the committed.
The Indians’ plight was best exemplified when Cook survived on 156, the second time in the match. Ishant Sharma put down an absolute dolly of a caught-and-bowled chance. Even the England captain seemed to have been left startled. Perhaps the bowler was surprised too, at having managed to create an opportunity!
Jonathon Trott (87) also found the perfect opportunity to be back among runs. While Zaheer Khan and Ishant were comfortably dispatched off his legs, he showed the self-belief and willingness to confront the spinners.
The 173-run partnership for the second wicket confirmed that no way the Indians could make a comeback. The stage was perfect for Kevin Pietersen to launch the offensive and he revelled in the conditions.
Having hit a straight six off Ojha and three consecutive boundaries after tea, he looked ominous till missing a sweep against Ashwin.
Ian Bell and Samit Patel were dismissed quickly but Matt Prior and Graeme Swann held fort for 13 overs to frustrate the Indians.
The bowlers’ performances have bordered mainly on the worst with the flicker of impressive spells not enough to turn the tide. Joe Dawes, the bowling coach, will surely have much answering to do.
If the pacers got some bounce and lateral movement once the new ball was taken in the morning, the spinners looked lost in the mayhem. Having a spinner’s coach in the support staff could be an idea worth exploring after having witnessed Mushtaq Ahmed’s success with the England team.
Dawes has no experience in subcontinent conditions and that is proving to be major drawback. The spinners have been too predictable here, and there was no effort to keep the batsmen guessing.
Ojha admitted that he has been speaking to Sunil Joshi and Venkatapathi Raju to sort out certain issues but a spin bowling coach in the team will always be better placed to help the players.
If Dhoni’s judicious handling of the bowlers did help in a few quick dismissals in the second session, after a fruitless opening one, his delay in bringing in Yuvraj Singh went unexplained.
The all-rounder came in to bowl with his handy left-arm spin in the 121st over once Pietersen arrived at the crease. If that move was aimed at putting Pietersen, who has proved to be Yuvraj’s bunny, under pressure he could have also tried the option when Cook and Trott were in full flow. Yuvraj bowled only three overs never to return again.
The stark difference in performance between the two sides was also reflected in the preparations ahead of this series.
While India have refused to learn the lessons from the disasters in England and Down Under, England’s struggle against Pakistan during their series in the UAE earlier this year served as a wake-up call.
Before coming to India, they prepared at the International Cricket Council’s global cricket academy in Dubai Sport City with spin-friendly wickets.
Cook’s men looked to make optimum use of the similar conditions. The home truths learnt during the 0-3 whitewash by Pakistan were worked upon to make sure the mistakes weren’t repeated.
The Indians, in contrast, have refused to realise that after the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, their batting is no longer strong enough to mask the bowling.
Related reports: Pgs 18, 20