England have won at Mumbai and are celebrating a well-deserved drawn series. However, India haven’t lost the series and there’s no reason for them to drop their heads. There were quite a few positives for us.
- First of all, the argument that England was a weakened unit doesn’t hold water since most of the replacements have done extremely well. Just as well as would have been expected of the players they replaced, if not better. Collingwood, Cook and Shah all played important knocks, and Anderson and Udal bowled really well in this Test match. More importantly, Fletcher being the real thinktank behind this unit made it easier for Flintoff to slip into the role of captaincy.
- Quite frankly, India lost the plot with their woeful fielding. Yuvraj, one of the better Indian fielders, dropped about five catches in the last Test match alone. I had written about his fielding being over-hyped, but even so, this was a rather poor showing. I hope Dravid realizes the need to find another short leg fielder. The good thing is that India will do much better by simply working on their fielding a little more. And they’re not that bad a fielding unit either. They just had a terrible series, much like the English and Australian teams during the last Ashes.
- The emergence of Sreesanth and Munaf Patel was good to see. Had they been better supported by their fielders, they could’ve ended up with much better figures. Pathan, however, seems more innocuous with every Test. He has an odd good spell, but lacks consistency and is fairly innocuous when the ball’s not swinging. I hope India gets on top of this soon. A bowling coach like Troy Cooley, who transformed the English pace attack, would be quite helpful.
- India didn’t lose this series on square turners. The pitches had bounce and carry and assisted the English pacemen just as much as the Indian bowlers. India could’ve easily produced pitches that assisted their spinners and romped to a thumping series win. But I prefer it this way. Not that there was no assistance for the spinners: there was plenty on the last two days. It’s just that England never had to bat last in any of the three games. We could’ve easily seen a different result had that been the case.
- Indian batting remains a worry, but not a big one. Tendulkar’s been in poor form of late, but there’s no need to boo him. He’s not looked terribly out of sorts in the middle, and it shouldn’t be long before he posts a big score. The good thing here is that it’s bounce that did the Indian batsmen in most of the time, and it’s not too hard to counter that. Dravid showed perfectly well how to play the short-pitched deliveries. India will be better prepared when they head abroad later this year. Also, I hope this does not dissuade India from going the five-bowler route.
- It was a tough series for Dravid as captain. People will point to the decision to field first in the last Test as his biggest folly, but I like the changing mindset of the team. It was a bold decision and will help this team do better in foreign conditions. I thought there were lots of other errors he made in the field, but hopefully he’s learning as a captain. It was worth paying attention to the English field settings and such. They had clear gameplans for each player (and hence unconventional fields too at times) and quite a few of them were successful, none moreso than Yuvraj’s dismissal in the first innings the 2nd Test at Mohali.
- India’s tail-enders have batted quite well. The last three wickets have consistently put on about 70+ runs on the board. If they continue this way, they’ll allow India to continue with the five-bowlers option. Moreso when the Indian top order is back in form, which wiill be soon, I reckon.
Also, we’ve got to give credit to the English team for playing really well. Let’s not forget that the Indians were batting against arguably the best bowling line-up in the world. They had innovative field settings and clear gameplans against each player, except perhaps Dravid. And they dominated most of the parts of all three games.
All in all, it was a thorougly enjoyable series. It provided great entertainment and I’m glad England didn’t capitulate as was initially predicted by many. This seems like a good time to make another plea to the BCCI to schedule longer Test series. This series as evenly poised as was the 2005 Ashes after the third game at Trent Bridge. How awful it would’ve been had the Ashes ended there. Who doesn’t want to see if Sehwag can finally learn to counter the sharp rising delivery, or if the famed Indian batting order can perform up to its reputation, or if the new English players (Shah, Cook, among others) can carry on from their great starts?
But now it is time to move on. The ODIs start next week, and that’s a totally different game — one that India has gotten very good at lately. England’s good performance here doesn’t change my prediction of India winning the ODI series, although Tendulkar will be missed.