A taste of your own medicine

M. S. Dhoni... his strategy backfired.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Dhoni’s tactics were thwarted by England more due to the inefficacy of his team than the superior strength of the visitors.

The Chinese have a proverb which says that when you set out to seek revenge, prepare two coffins as the chances are, even of the avenger getting vanquished. Cricket is just sport and words such as revenge have no place in any sport. But I am trying to prove a point which has been on Dhoni’s mind ever since his side fared poorly abroad.

Dhoni’s tactics were thwarted by England more due to the inefficacy of his team than the superior strength of the visitors. Of course, the Cooks and Pietersens of the world will raise the bar when it matters most, but unfortunately they were not really challenged enough by the Indian spinners on a fairly helpful track. In contrast, Monty Panesar ripped through the fancied top-order of the Indian line-up to set up a victory for his side. The left-arm spinner more than justified his inclusion in the side but the English selectors will give themselves a pat on their backs for bringing Pietersen back into the squad after a lot of hullabaloo.

The temperamental middle-order batsman was the likely candidate to invoke some anxiety and discomfort purely due to his aggressive approach. In as much as England needed a Cook to hold one end up, they also needed someone to take the attack to the enemy camp. With both Cook and Pietersen in their elements, the Indian spinners were put to the sword on what was definitely a spinner-friendly track.

The view from the Indian camp that the pitch started slowing down progressively became a joke in the end. The Panesar effect proved too much for India in the second innings. Apart from the spinners having a party on dry surfaces, the Indian seamers were expected to utilise the reverse swing to good effect. But with just one pacer playing in the eleven, Dhoni sacrificed that dimension and his strange decision to play three spinners was backed up by luck as well with the coin flipping in his favour. However, the Indians were outplayed comprehensively and now it remains to be seen the kind of surface Dhoni would prefer in the remaining two Tests.

While there is no doubt that the Indian captain needs to be backed up by the system in providing the tracks he wants, one must not lose sight of the fact that Dhoni has the responsibility of making Team India a force to reckon with under all conditions. Besides, he needs to be on the same page as the BCCI in terms of the long term objectives. I say this because we have a situation here wherein the BCCI wants the domestic games to be played on sporting tracks even as the Indian team is hell bent on playing on “Bunsen burners”. Team India will go on to win some Tests on tracks that cater to their strength but what good will come out of playing on tracks that aid spinners on day one and in the first session. The conviction that India is unbeatable on home soil and on spinner-friendly tracks has taken a beating which leaves Dhoni with very little option.

The skipper has to sit back and reflect on the fact that batsmen lacking confidence need to play on firm tracks to get back to form. This was re-emphasised by the failures of the leading batsmen in the two Tests played thus far. Pujara has held the team together with his customary doggedness but the batting line-up as a unit is far from being formidable as it can be. The concerns have only grown for Dhoni even in a home series and the way Cook has led the fight-back for his team, the message is very clear for Dhoni and Team India. The visitors are here to challenge Team India in their own backyard and go back by creating history.