The Historic Lords’ win – A mere flash in the pan?
“We know what our challenges in England are” – claimed Dhoni before the Investec Test Series kick started in England a month ago. And we believed him. For the fresh young Indian team, on a high after recently accomplishing a comfortable series win against the Kiwis, everything seemed to be falling in place. A resurgent Murali Vijay, out to prove a point slammed an impressive ton in the very first innings of the first match. From then on, the match was all about piling runs on the board by both the teams. Despite what the scoreboard said, India did survive a scare on the final day when they lost 3 wickets for 17 runs in the first hour of the day but Stuart Binny and the tail wagged hard enough to see them through.
The second test match was to go down in history as one of the famous wins of India over England at Lords, only the second in 82 years. The match belonged unequivocally to Ishant Sharma. Ironically, an almost un-Ishant like spell of short pitched fast bowling by the lanky pacer on the final day of the match spelled doom for the English. The match was not run-heavy and only Ajinkya Rahane managed to catch attention with a gritty 103.
The Indian pace attack was compromised from the third test match onwards with the in-form bowler Ishant Sharma warming the bench owing to injury. And how the tables turned! Suddenly, Team India retreated to a shadow of the team which had created history at Lords just a week before. It was as if Ishant Sharma had taken all the zest away with him leaving behind a meek and dejected team displaying innings after innings of a spectacular batting failures. As if a drubbing by 266 runs was not enough at Southampton, India was further humiliated by an innings and 54 runs defeat at Manchester. Stalwarts of the Indian cricket, Kohli and Pujara were left staring at the abysmal scoreboard while the English celebrated an assailable lead of 2-1 in the series.
Did Ishant Sharma really make all the difference between the two teams? Did his absence from the side create such a huge void that the performance of the Indian team spiraled into a bottomless pit? Isn’t this claim just laughable? If we come to think of it, did India really play well in the first two test matches? Barring Murali Vijay, there was hardly any contribution from the famed middle order, it was Bhubaneshwar Kumar who pulled India past the 400 mark. Ishant’s momentary brilliance again overshadowed the ordinary performance of the Indian batsmen in the second test match at Lords. Looking at the consistency of below-par performances by the Indian batting lineup, the two defeats at Southampton and Manchester should not really come as a surprise. With Indian batsmen regularly flirting with swinging deliveries away from the body and poking at every ball outside the off-stump, it was just a matter of time before this weakness bubbled up to surface. Mr. Sunil Gavaskar says the Indian team is undergoing a rebuilding phase; we need to be patient with this team. The players seem to have taken his words very seriously – they sure are testing our patience!