Is the whole team behind Dhoni?

I have to ask if batsmen who have built their careers in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai are as good as we think and why, under the coaching of someone as knowledgeable as Duncan Fletcher, they have not learnt to adapt, writes Ted Corbett.

I know everything there is to know about Test disasters. We who followed England around the world in the 1990s saw catastrophe on a daily basis. We measured it, slowly we learned to live with it and, eventually, we took it in our stride.

There was, for instance, that afternoon in Port of Spain when Curtly Ambrose, a bowler of undeniable fast pace and unquestioned greatness, got annoyed because the fielders laughed when he batted badly.

In the next few overs as Ambrose roared to the wicket and sent a succession of wobbly batsmen retreating, we saw fear in a fluted glass, terror at the crease and a determination to show they were not frightened. They failed miserably and Ambrose mopped them up as if he might be a caretaker using a pan and brush. It was magnificent bowling against wretched batting.

Disasters, as Mr. Sinatra almost sang, I’ve seen a few . . .

Not just against the terrifyingly piratical West Indies either. So too, whenever Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath sent England scuttling back to their hideaway, beaten, bothered and bewildered.

The difference between what happened on those occasions and what happened as England sent India hurtling to defeat at Old Trafford after two and a half days of the fourth Test was that England bowled India out in 43 overs with an attack that was so wet behind the ears you could see the tidemark.

The magnificent Stuart Broad was injured and took no part in that momentous innings. James Anderson bowled a couple of overs and went to the pavilion, perhaps for a call of nature, perhaps to rest a body made weary with too many disciplinary matters, perhaps out of boredom.

Who cares? He is the lynchpin of this England attack, the man of steel toughened in the white heat of an Australian season of defeat. He is the best fast medium bowler of the day and many another day before it.

If he could not take part England were weakened to the point of destruction. Really! Yes and they still blasted India apart. How they managed it will never be known.

All I know is that England will never have an easier win and that India will never arouse more suspicions in a single innings.

What has happened to this team of all the talents since they tore England to shreds at Lord’s?

There is often a common cause when things go as far wrong as they did at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford.

Is the team split down the middle? Well, it may be and to start my investigation, Dr. Watson, I would like a clearer explanation for the absence of Ravi Ashwin from the India teams for the first three Tests. He would have made a clear difference, batting or bowling.

Perhaps he was injured, perhaps he was being disciplined — although I have no cause to think he had done anything wrong — or perhaps the balance of the team demanded that he was left on the terraces where we caught a brief glimpse of him at Trent Bridge.

On that occasion he looked cheerful, gave the cameras a wave and seemed to be chatting amiably to his buddies. No explanation came from the Indian camp but then what else is new? It seems that giving the public any detail about life in that tented village is not a first consideration.

Secondly, we would like to know if the whole team is behind M. S. Dhoni. An idiosyncratic captain, strong to the point at which he might be described as wilful, but none the less a man who knows his own mind and who gets results, even if he has to bat endless rearguard actions to achieve those ends.

(Yes, I do know that Alastair Cook has been reborn as a great leader after two inexplicable results and, unless I read the signals wrongly, will have at least a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours, but if England had Dhoni they would be a mighty team. His reputation as a fighter, his leadership and his wicket-keeping are just what England need. ICC, can’t we have an international transfer system and soon!)

If his own team don’t like the man that is another reason for the collapse of the Indian attempt to wrench this series from England on their own soil. I hope it is not so.

Thirdly, I have to ask if batsmen who have built their careers in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai are as good as we think and why, under the coaching of someone as knowledgeable as Duncan Fletcher, they have not learnt to adapt.

Maybe — and may the council of sporting gods forgive them if this is true — they find fault in Fletcher. Perhaps, once they get to the crease, they think: “I will try my own way, not Fletcher’s.”

Here it is difficult to find a reason. The papers are all explaining the great England Renaissance, the wonder of James Anderson and the miracle of Alastair Cook who on the eve of the third Test was toast and who is now the toast of the town.

Life is never that simple save in the mind of a sports editor who — and who can blame him — must search for a headline that will sell his papers. An editor too great to measure once told me: “Big ‘eadlines, get the papers on the street.”

I hope Cook reads that and is grateful. In the past few days it has saved his bacon.