Match drawn, series won, flight delayed

First things first. India won a Test series. An away series. Ishant Sharma took a few big strides. Rahul Dravid reiterated his worth in a crisis. MS Dhoni remains unbeaten in a Test series. I repeat: unbeaten.

India traveled to the Caribbean with a relatively inexperienced side and avoided a few  banana peels during the way. They were expected to win. They did.

A few points:

1 I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly impressed with Dhoni’s declaration in the second Test in Barbados. We’ve endured some uber-conservatism over the last ten years – especially Ganguly in Sydney and Dravid at The Oval – and this felt like a defining moment (I had felt the same about Dravid at Multan but over time I’ve felt conflicted about that decision but anyway …).

Here in Barbados we finally had a captain who’s not burdened by the weight of history, I told myself. To set 281 in 83 overs was a fine way to go.

2 There were several reasons why the final two matches ended in draws. Rain played its part. As did some slow scoring at various stages. As did some toothless bowling. As did some dropped catches. As did some poor captaincy. As did some fine resistance from West Indies (especially Chanderpaul in Dominica) on pitches that called for hard graft. To single out one factor would be naive.

3 Dravid dropped a crucial catch in Dominica. India’s bowlers failed to run through the tail. Fidel Edwards blocked the bejeezus out of them. And Chanderpaul glued himself to the crease with Araldite. By the time India needed 180 off 47 overs, the game was well on it way to stalematedom.

4 Yes, Fidel Edwards had comfortably pitched a tent on that surface but one mustn’t confuse the ease of survival with the ease of scoring runs. They’re different beasts. So to say, ‘If Fidel Edwards can bat for so long, India could have gone for the target’ would be to compare apples and oranges.

4 Now I have one crucial question. Was there a clear plan to go for a win? Was there some thought given to changing the batting order? Duncan Fletcher doesn’t really answer that (maybe he wasn’t asked it) but I would like an answer to that question. Because if India were wishy-washy at that point the debate must start and end there.

I am carrying on this post, assuming that India were going for the win. I would like to think the world’s best side started their innings wanting to win that Test.

5 A wicket fell in the first ball. But that wicket was not Virender Sehwag (whose dismissal could have no doubt changed the team’s mindset). That wicket was Abhinav Mukund. In his third Test. Still finding his feet. I didn’t expect him to fire-start the innings. Nor was I shocked that he fell so early.

So I continue to assume that India were still going for the win. If they decided to shut shop at the fall of Mukund’s wicket, the debate starts and ends here. Again, I don’t know  the team’s plan, so I will continue to assume that a win was in their sights.

6 Dravid and Vijay add 73 in 24 overs (Vijay scores quicker which I am assuming is part of the plan to allow Dravid to stay on as insurance). They’re scoring at a shade over 3 an over. It fits well with my assumption that they’re going for the win. 107 off 23 overs. Required RR: 4.65. Not easy by any means. But not impossible with nine in hand. Far from it.

Meanwhile Bishoo has been bowling from around the wicket, getting it to rip off the rough and making it really tough for the batsmen to score. And the batsmen haven’t tried anything unconventional (like a reverse-sweep). I am assuming they are OK with the current run-rate.

Again, if the team saw Bishoo bowl this angle and said ‘Oh no, there’s no way we can win this’, let’s start and stop the debate here. But I would like to assume they were confident of putting Bishoo away. Or maybe they saw the ghost of Clarrie Grimmett. But I digress.

7 Vijay falls. In walks Raina. So they’re going for the win after all. A left-hander is here to combat the leggie. Raina and Dravid add 13 runs in 3.5 overs. The rate has definitely dropped but not by any alarming margin. Raina is realising that scoring is not going to be easy but he’s scurrying between the wickets and showing some urgency. He is constantly trying to turn the single into a two.

Raina falls. Tame dismissal but he was trying to get a move on.

I must bring in Fletcher here.

Once Raina was sent in he found it very difficult. He had gone there as the left-hander to take on the legspin bowler. But it was turning straightaway; they block off one side and it’s always difficult to chase four runs an over in a Test match because you can do what you like with the field; there are no fielding limitations, and the most important thing was the wicket was very slow. Once it’s so slow you can’t play your shots, and that’s a huge advantage for the bowling side. Unless there was some real bad bowling it was difficult to score.


So was Raina’s dismissal the final straw? Did the team tell themselves, ‘If a left-hander is struggling what chance for the rest of us right-handers?’

I personally hope not because I think shutting shop then would have been a gross underestimation of the rest of the line-up. Dravid and Laxman still not out (yes, the same miracle workers who have created rain when asked of them), Kohli and Dhoni to come (on the back of a 74 in the first innings) and Harbhajan to follow.

There was nothing dicey about this situation. I would honestly be shocked if India even harboured the thought of defeat at this stage.

8 Laxman walks in. It was slightly surprising that Dhoni didn’t promote himself (especially after “I wanted to prove a point to myself” etc in the World Cup final) but this is not some baffling decision. VVS has scored quick runs in the past and VVS is probably our best batsman on current form. So VVS it is.

Dravid and VVS add 8 runs in 3.5 overs. It’s nowhere close to the required run-rate. Scoring was hard. And if Dravid and VVS are struggling to score it’s fair to say that Dhoni and Harbhajan would struggle more.

9 India need 86 off 90. Seven wickets in hand. Will they, won’t they? Can they, should they? Poof. Power cut. Gone.

Sure 86 off 90 on the fifth day of a Test (with a leggie bowling around the wicket) is quite improbable. It wasn’t an easy pitch and the fielding side always holds the upper hand in these situations because (unlike in ODIs or T20s) there are no major field restrictions. So an Indian win was a long shot.

But an Indian defeat was a longer shot. A much longer shot. I did not, for once, even consider the possibility of seven wickets falling in 15 overs. I have lived through worse collapses but this Indian team was almost incapable of such ineptitude. I knew it, you knew it and I’ll be stunned if Dhoni and the rest didn’t know it.

And I’m amazed that Fletcher is even saying things like: “ … what’s the point in going there and ending up maybe with just one side able to win it.”

One side able to win it? Seriously, Duncan? You actually even considered that?

10 Of course Test cricket needs to look at this silly rule (as Andy Z says). Of course it’s great for a Test to have an exciting finish. And of course the fans (both the thousands who walked through the turnstiles and the millions who stayed glued to their TV sets at the death of the night) deserved better.

But Test cricket and its fans can handle all this. They’ve handled worse and they will be fine. The future of Test cricket did not depend on this one Test. Thankfully Test cricket is more durable than that.

11 My point is this. Indian teams from the ‘90s were never expected to win abroad. So when Tendulkar’s team had 120 to chase in Barbados in ’97 we felt we were within touching distance of glory. We lost. When Ganguly’s men got so close in Sydney, we imagined the start of an epic journey. We drew. When Dravid grappled with the follow-on decision at The Oval, we hoped for an Indian team that had turned ruthless, twisting the knife in when the opposition was down. He batted on.

All these men traveled abroad with the weight of history in their baggage. They knew that winning a Test or a series was paramount. They didn’t have great line-ups and were constantly wondering whether they had the team to pull off wins. They were constantly battling with themselves.

Dhoni has reached a stage when he’s expected to win Test series abroad. When a captain has never lost a series, is this really an unreasonable expectation? And this was against a lowly West Indies. Sure they fought hard but there was no way in hell the West Indies bowlers were going to run through this line-up in a session.

At Wellington, we could give him the benefit of the doubt (one of his first series as captain, hadn’t won in NZ for many years, had a point to prove etc). Ditto Cape Town (potent bowling attack, not the easiest pitch to bat, series to salvage etc).

But Dominica is baffling. Because Dhoni can keep totting up as many series wins as he wants but there must be some point where his team aspires to a higher, loftier goal. Good teams are remembered for what they win but the great ones are forever cherished for how high they fly.

When Gordon Greenidge walked out to chase 342 in less than 70 overs at Lord’s, was he thinking of a draw? When Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist began that partnership at Hobart, were they looking to play safe?

I offer these examples not as comparison points per se but as moments when some awesome teams stretched the boundaries, moments when the best teams were bestowed with a sprinkling of immortality.

It’s pretty clear that India isn’t ready for that flight yet. And it’s disappointing, simply because I seem to believe in this team more than they believe in themselves. Those stupid expectations. Must. Tone. Them. Down.

There was another point that was irritating me. How is this Indian team so comfortable with confidently foreseeing the future? Sure, run-scoring was hard and six and over was close to impossible but haven’t these players been around long enough to know that it takes precisely one over to change the dynamic of the whole match?

Yes, Bishoo was bowling around the wicket into the rough. But was there absolutely no chance that he would have a bad over? And was there absolutely no chance that Sammy would fret and make a few dumb field changes? And was there absolutely no chance of India’s batsmen trying some unorthodox shots and pulling them off?

Isn’t cricket a funny game? Haven’t stranger things happened? How does the No.1 team in the world confidently shut out all these possibilities?

I find that the most disappointing. This is a beautiful game because of the possibilities it throws up. This is a beautiful game because despite lasting for five days, it just takes one ball or an over to turn it all inside out. There are possibilities and there are possibilities.

And even without giving those possibilities a chance, Dhoni pulled the plug.

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56 Responses to Match drawn, series won, flight delayed

  1. mohankaus says:

    Awesome. Excellently captured…

  2. Sid,

    All valid points. But as you mention, “it just takes one ball or an over to turn it all inside out” and perhaps that is what Dhoni wanted to protect against in what seemed like an impossible chase and end up in a position where they are caught with their pants down. As much long shot the loss was, so was the win.

    Personally, I am alright with people questioning the tactics and strategy: right or wrong. But to extrapolate it to say the team is made of wimps, and don’t have the stomach for a fight, and are running with their tail between the legs, is not on.. IMO, anyway.

    Let’s have a discussion. Check the emotions at the door. I’d rather do that than get in a name-calling match, as was witnessed on twitter and elsewhere.

    As always, excellent post.

  3. agni says:

    9). India need 90 off 86. Seven wickets in hand. Will they, won’t they? Can they, should they? Poof. Power cut. Gone…
    …….
    Actually Sid, it was 86 runs required from 90 balls… (sorry for being a irritating pedant)..
    so it was less than run-a-ball.. and we shut shop….
    baffling..

  4. An excellent post as usual. My take on the same thing – Where was the risk, really?
    The most baffling thing of all was that defeat seemed so improbable and still the team didn’t go for it.

  5. pikku says:

    Whatay!!

  6. Sunny says:

    talk about hitting one out of the park. :)

  7. Rishi Ayyer says:

    I’m not an avid cricket watcher, but the prospect of an Indian victory, (and the fact that my holidays are on) kept me awake and I watched the match. I found it awful when Dhoni did, pull the plug. It was not only the plug on a 2-0 victory, but also a plug on the interest the match had generated. It was, disappointing to say the least.

  8. Anand Raghunathan says:

    You writing beauty!! One-notch up every time sir!

    Nike says, “Just do it”..
    Adidas says, “Impossible is nothing”..
    But, Dhoni endorsing Reebok, and Duncan Fletcher’s multi-million deal, endorsing Sudarmani Vests & Briefs were quick to call,
    “It’s impossible.. Just don’t do it!”

  9. Anand says:

    Spot on! For me and other fans who suffered multiple heart attacks in the 90s, this looked like the team threw away the cake as they were not hungry. They could have sent Bhajji in to have a go for a few overs and then decided that if the no holds barred approach doesn’t work, it is going to be difficult to win. The lack of intent hurt me the most. If Kapil Dev thought 183 couldn’t be defended against the mighty WI, we wouldn’t have won the world cup. Totally surprised that Dhoni declared considering his positive intent just a week ago!
    Heck, with all due respect to Edwards, there wasn’t even a run-through-a-side bowler in the ranks. Can imagine if they shut shop against Wasim and Waqar or Steyn/Morkel or Wambrose.

  10. Shrenit Tendulkar says:

    I know we lost early wkt but we started the inning too slowly, should have kept-up with asking rate (i.e. @ 3.80). Dravid should have lot more positive or laxman should have been send at No 3. 86 off 90 balls on day 5 wicket with defensive bowling tactics always going to be tough. If we really wanted to win this we should been positive from start of inning. Historically we always been conservative when we have to play the role of enforcer. Hopefully next time we take this chances bcoz we are good enough to do that.

  11. Sriram says:

    Sidvee,

    Very nice post. The attitude reminds me a lot of this match that took place 6 years ago (although we did lose this one) http://im.rediff.com/cricket/2005/mar/29prem.htm

    To add to your points, I think India missed sending a strong message to England. If they had beaten WI here (or even scared them) — coupled with MSD’s bold declaration in the second test — England would be thinking, “Hmm..These guys play to win all the time, even if they are missing their best players. Now, with Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar back …”. As Ian Chappell said, “Every good poker player knows when to hold and when to fold”. This was the perfect time to make a statement of intent, not the time to fold.

  12. Naveen G says:

    We had a chance to aspire higher, but we let the opportunity go. I feel for the spectators who showed up. Am glad I didnt give in to my impluse to fly down to Dominica and watch the game. Would have been gutted even worse.

    Excellent post, as always :)

  13. Bihag Bhatt says:

    Good post Sir!

    But I have to disagree!

    1) Indian Batting line-up, though formidable, isn’t what we can compare to the best sides of Aus or WI that you mentioned in this particular series. 3 main batsmen are missing.
    2) Kohli did not inspire much confidence and Dravid is not known for scoring quick runs. Esp. in tests. If lose two of VVS, Dravid and Dhoni – there was a definite chance of the legendary crash.
    3) Once the bowlers start going outside off-stump line, batting team’s aggression wouldn’t do much good.
    4) India (not only Dhoni) will have to wait who-knows-how-long for an overseas series win outside subcontinent in that (improbable but not impossible) event.
    5) And wonder how would blog-o-sphere and twitter respond if that loss had come up?

    Gamble in second test was much different. He was betting on a mediocre batting of WI collapsing. WI bowling by no standard is great, but they do have a decent attack and Indian batting line up has given away positions of advantage even earlier in the series.

    I think this was the time to fold. We do not rule cricket the way WI or Aus did in their time. We do it in our own way. Lamentable though you may find it, that’s the one we have.

    • I back all the points made here! Well said.

      And as pointed out, the comparison with WI in 1984 and Australia in 1999 is not apples to apples.

      Both were full-strength teams. India had 3 rookies in the top 5.

      WI lost only 1 wicket, and so continued with their chase. We don’t know if they would have had they lost 3 wickets in the 1st half of the chase.

      And at Hobart, there was no time or scoring rate pressure. Australia had a full day (90 overs) to score 181 runs, or not lose 5 wickets. It was a great performance no doubt, but not comparable to the time-bound chase in Dominica.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for the comment, Bihag. I wasn’t comparing us to WI or Aus. I used those examples only to show the mindset that those teams possessed. Again, I didn’t expect us to win yesterday. But I definitely felt we should have tried until all hope was extinguished. And as for a ‘legendary crash’, it was never going to happen with this team against West Indies. At least that’s my view. Of course, I totally respect your view too.

    • S T Jitendran says:

      The basic crux of the problem is ” When we try to Justify everything we accept whatever comes our way” Champion team sorry World No 1 team should set standards. If they can not play positively with Windies I am afraid what they will do with more stronger England team. They should have sent Dhoni/Kohli/even Bhaji before Dravid and should have played pinch hitting. If thy click win is not far & if not Dravid could come later and shut the shop. I am disgusted with the attitude of team managemant. It is not right to cast aspersions on Kohli without allowing him to bat in this innings. To end “Champions never quit & quitters will never become Champions!!”

  14. “This is a beautiful game because despite lasting for five days, it just takes one ball or an over to turn it all inside out. There are possibilities and there are possibilities.”

    Fine article, but I don’t think you truly believe the above words. Otherwise you would have acknowledged that the possibility existed of India getting into trouble by pursuing the final hour.

    Who gave the WI a chance of blowing out England for 51 in Jamaica on Day 5 just 2 years ago? That was led by Jerome Taylor. But hadn’t Fidel Edwards taken a 5-wkt haul in this match, including knocking over India’s last 4 wkts for ~35 runs on Day 4 of this Test match?

    Let’s say we took the final hour, and lost 2 more quick wkts going for the win by trying to attack Bishoo’s around-the-wkts negative bowling…. and make no mistake, Bishoo would have bowled 7 of those last 15 overs. Who is to say that from 110/5, Edwards and Rampaul couldn’t possibly clean up our lower order? And even if we had held out for a draw at say 130 / 6… wouldn’t the WI and many in the English media falsely claim that the No. 1 team had barely escaped with a draw against a lower-ranked team? (Especially since printing negative pieces, either overtly or subtly, about the India team, its No. 1 ranking, and its power in the game is the new hobby horse of the English and Australian media)

    Finally, Sid, unless you truly believe most Indian fans and the Indian media would have understood, and graciously accepted, an Indian defeat in the pursuit of victory… you should understand Dhoni’s logic of not gambling with a series win. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

    PS: I have no doubt whatsoever that most Indian fans and Indian journalists would have crucified Dhoni, Fletcher and the team had India, by some chance, lost while chasing. They wouldn’t care if Edwards and Rampaul had bowled brillliantly to blast out India’s lower order… they would have blamed the leadership’s decision. And the English press would merrily pile on the pressure when Dhoni landed in England.

  15. Sid, 2 more points for you and others to consider:

    1) You cited 2 instances when “awesome teams stretched the boundaries.” But why do you forget the awesome instances that this Indian team (at full strength) has already created, and contributed to world cricket (not just Indian cricket)?
    a) Chasing 389 at Chennai vs England in 2008… the highest ever successful chase on the sub-continent, and among the highest anywhere in the world. What were the odds on that happening when England ended their innings?
    b) The brilliant rear-guard action in the Mohali chase vs Australia. How often has the 9th wicket pair added 80 match-winning runs in a tense chase against an Australian side? What were the odds on that materializing?

    2) Dhoni, Tendulkar, Zaheer, Fletcher and the rest of Team India have known all along that the “higher, loftier goal” that will define them is the series in England. Not a 2-0 win in the WI, or even a 3-0 demolition job. That’s why a young team was sent, and that’s why Dhoni was in no mood to even remotely risk the bird in hand (an away series win).

    2 months from now, 6 months from now, and beyond… what will matter and what will be remembered is how India competed in England. (Not if we won 1-0 or 2-0 in the WI)

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for all the points, Gaurav. I am a big admirer of this team and have derived a lot of joy watching them stretch the boundaries. Which is why I am surprised they didn’t even try to do that yesterday. And that is exactly my point that you are making – teams are remembered when they fly (like India did in Chennai and Mohali). So I would have thought they would have wanted to at least attempt (if not pull off) the same against a much lower ranked side than England or Australia.

  16. Sunil says:

    Dear Sid,

    Just for a totally different perspective.

    I did not watch the match. I learnt about it all later. And I do not consider I am a match for your knowledge and passion for the game. For those reasons I have no intention to get drawn into this-that argument in the context of the match.

    But cricket does offer wonderful means to evaluate perceptions. I must admit I am fascinated by Dhoni. For my love, I’ve never been more captivated by one desi’s thought process like I am of that man. His thinking reminds me a lot of Kissinger. Dhoni, before this, had an aggressive go-getter- ring about him ( Last year Dharamsala IPL, IPL finals, WC Finals, even the second test ) etc . But here he is adding another layer – to hold back – to call the bets off, when stakes are difficult to evaluate. I find it absolutely amazing – the man is growing, altering his cognitive structure- something that I’ve not even Sachin do on his own.

    PS- By twitter I’ve got a n idea than a lot of somewhat snobbish tweeters look down upon Dhoni. In fact I see a lot of negativity and hatred around him. Just to make sure I do not get drawn into such debates I’d like to say, no thank you.

    PPS- A quick one – About your convenient brushstroke arguments here:

    I offer these examples not as comparison points per se but as moments when some awesome teams stretched the boundaries, moments when the best teams were bestowed with a sprinkling of immortality.

    It’s pretty clear that India isn’t ready for that flight yet. And it’s disappointing, simply because I seem to believe in this team more than they believe in themselves. Those stupid expectations. Must. Tone. Them. Down.

    a. POI – best teams. yes, they were better teams – this Indian team was wasn’t any where close to be decent by any measuring scale. It was an average B team playing a motley C team.

    b. ‘sprinkling of immortality’ yes, but doesn’t apply to average B teams , they have no need to fly and soar, as you impose on them.

    Finally I must add, all of this is no way a reflection of the Indian national test team that is no.1

    Unless Indians stop carrying this insane expectation of their team having to win ( not wanting) , Indians will struggle to appreciate the game which is as much about the players involved as the victories sought. Until then we create worlds out of emotions where we reinforce our own views to ourselves and others who subscribe to them.

    cheers

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks Sunil. I’m a big admirer of the man too and I’m sure he had his reasons for calling it off. This was more a piece written in bafflement than in anger. And about the examples I offered – it was only to show how some teams take a leap of faith. I wasn’t comparing this team to any other team. And I don’t agree with you about this being an average B team. cheers

  17. Sunil says:

    Dear Sid, that is precisely the sort of thinking which calls for teasing a bit further. For instance, you saying – examples I offered – it was only to show how some teams take a leap of faith. . I am sure you did not quote it here as useful cricketing information completely exclusive of the present context. It reflects a certain implicit expectation of repeating a similar feat by this team.

    My point being, this team wasn’t anywhere close to a team that could achieve such feats, mind you Im not saying not capable of. In both the examples of matches Greenidge and Gilchrist were fluent from the word go. It was all about shot making that happens in a players life like once in a decade as they have acknowledged themselves, like days you’ve woken up and within a ball or two you know you’re flowing. yesterday I believe, even by your account here, it was trudge, crawl, wade, meander.

    We can disagree about our evaluation of the team, but eventually will fall down on what Dhoni thinks his players can do or can’t do.

    Cheers

  18. Pavan says:

    Dhoni just showed us the difference between a Good Team & a Great Team!

  19. sathyamurthi says:

    Sidvee : Good one.
    Here my perspective – lets say the chance of draw was 60% and chance of win 25% and loss 15% (loss was improbable but not zero). Your argument was why not play until chance of Win reduced to something lower, but Dhoni looked at probably decided 75% of the time I am not going to get a better result (in other words upside is not appealing,time to fold) – Lets pack and get ready for England.

    My view of Dhoni – He is very conservative and pragmatic captain and this decision reinforces that.

    But why should passionate fans like you not have higher expectation for Dhoni & Team India, why should we all agree …

    • sidvee says:

      Fair enough. I don’t agree with the 15% but yes, there was a small chance of losing. But my point is, why pack and get ready for England? Won’t you want to try to win the game until all hope is lost? Again, it comes down to my expectations. And as you said, we all are never going to have the same expectations :)

  20. Pavan says:

    This test took me back to Kapil dev’s very first test as captain (against wi ofc in 82-83)… Still remember on the final day WI got a target of around 180 runs in 25 overs in final session.. and everyone (right from Desmond Haynes (uncharacteristic) to Gordon G & ofc the usual suspect Vivian Richards went for it.. Vivian was the demolition man that day) and though Kapil did tried his best and picked 4 wickets himself but in the end WI won by four wickets.. I will remember that test forever for the effort…. This one will haunt me for sometime (probably till the start of next test) for not making the effort and will fade out for sure..

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks Pavan. I was too young then, so have only heard and read about that series. Such moments when teams go for wins definitely live on for long.

  21. Rohan Rao says:

    Most of the counter views have already been provided and the more we dwell about it, the more knotted this issue becomes. But I would just like to point out – a mild vindication, maybe – of Dravid’s action in the Oval Test, and how it cannot be compared to the present issue at hand.

    Like you have mentioned, at that point of time, the historical significance associated with every overseas tour was tremendous and was surely an excess baggage which the team had to bear.
    So when we won the 2nd test at Nottingham, the next immediate goal for us, more than anything else was to safeguard the lead. So when Dravid, did not enforce the follow-on in the 3rd Test and batted along, the whole nation gasped with exasperation.
    But to understand the reasoning behind this apparent defensiveness in our tactics, we only had to turn our attention to the way our batsman went upon chasing a paltry 73 required to win in the previous test on the last day. The England bowlers were making the ball Skid,Jump and Spike. Sidebottom was making the ball swing from obscurity, Anderson, though erratic, was having a great series,and was bowling at uncomfortable speeds, while Chris Tremlett made disastrous inroads into our batting line up, on that last day. I still remember a couple hostile overs, he bowled to SRT which totally cowered the Master down, to finally get him out meekly at leg gully, fending off a short one. So this could’ve been a decisive factor in Dravid’s mind, which led him to take a decision in the 3rd test, to not bat last again.

    While at present, Dhoni had nothing of that scale to fear about. Cause surely, the present Windies bowlers, are nowhere as intimidating as the English bowlers were. And on top of it, Sammy himself accepted that Bishoo was tiring, He himself was taped from toe-to-toe, Edwards was cramping and Rampaul wasn’t well too. So while this was a colossal opportunity wasted, Dravid’s was, in hindsight, a well thought out one.

    • Gaurav Dhawan says:

      The 1st thing your comment tells me is that you are a bigger fan of Rahul Dravid than either Dhoni or Tendulkar! :)

      No worries! RD is as admirable a man as any in international sport (not just cricket).

      I too agreed with Dravid at the time, but I think his decision was influenced more by the work-load of India’s bowlers than by a fear of chasing. If you recall it was the 3rd Test and the bowlers, particularly Zak, had done a lot of bowling over that series. They had bowled their hearts and bodies out in taking 20 wickets at Trent Bridge (2nd Test) and then 10 more in the 1st inngs at the Oval (3rd Test), which had a less helpful pitch and overhead conditions. Bowling again immediately would have been hard on Zak and the rest, and Dravid most likely felt that a break would recharge their batteries and make them more effective in the 2nd inngs. And don’t forget, we had 7 ODIs vs Eng coming up after the 3rd Test.

      A captain knows his bowlers’ state and how much he can push them far, far better than those at a distance (journalists, fans). And Dravid made the right decision given the factors (state of the series, the pitch, the bowling workload) in that context.

      PS: You’re right about the last day at Trent Bridge, but the Oval was no Trent Bridge. And incidentally, they were showing the highlights of that last day at TB. Tremlett was threatening indeed, beating everyone from the openers to Dravid, Sachin and Ganguly. Sachin actually was out off the middle of his bat, not fending – he was trying to ride Tremlett’s short delivery and play it down past short leg (Rahul does that very well being slightly taller), but was unable to get it down before it reached leg gully. Will be interesting to see if Tremlett tries that again; I think Sachin will look to duck under it this time.

      • Rohan Rao says:

        Haha Guilty as charged Sir, huge Rahul Dravid Fan. But also a believer, that Sachin Tendulkar is the Greatest Living Cricketer in the world and Mahendra Singh Dhoni is one of the Finest Indian Captains :)

        Firstly, your views that the follow-on was not enforced keeping in the view the work load the bowlers were entrusted upon the whole series and with 7 ODI still left in the series, makes sense, no doubt (but when viewed microscopically, you will see, that the Indian bowlers had bowled a total of just 103.1 overs in this test, while England had bowled 140) but anyway this point was also touched upon by Siddhartha in his article http://es.pn/qVdGZN and further reiterated by Dravid himself, when he said “Well it’s just that my bowlers had bowled 90 odd overs, I can understand why people are disappointed sitting in their living rooms , but I have to look at my bowlers and the amount of work load they have put in the long series. I know them from close quarters and know their body language.”
        But this opinion and line of thought was shredded to pieces by our own Legends/Critics back home, who never bought this argument.

        To make matters worse Mr.Zaheer Khan, came out after the test, took the Man of The Series award and gloriously proclaimed “as far as I am concerned, I have given my everything to this series. I don’t think I was tired or anything… not really”,
        which was an absolute disgrace, to just blatantly contradict your Captain, which only showed that there were apparent factions within the team, to eventually lead to Dravid stepping down as captain.

        So considering all these factors, I was of the opinion, that Dravid must have surely introspected, which might have lead him to realise of his batters inability to be resolute against top class fast bowling and so he just, just might have taken this decision, which I feel was wise.

        PS: This time if Tremlett tries to bounce out SRT, I don’t want him ducking under it, No Sir. I want him to smack it off the ground, give him the Caddick treatment :)

  22. Pranay Balar says:

    awesomely written!

  23. Jay Mo says:

    Hey Sid, its jay man, hope all is well. enjoyed your article here but i think you missed the point. msd is the best captain for a reason. think about the world cup, i dont remember the details of all the games but generally india were mediocre during the league games and managed to do just enough to win those games. but once the playoffs came, they were ready. i think same thing is happening here. i think they were/are focused on england. they did just enough to win here but are saving their emotional energies for the big one. if you read msd’s post match comments during the world cup, he said things along these same lines.this is how he prefers to do things (conserving energy or not peaking too early whatever you wanna call it), its his style and this is his team. im excited because i think they are ready for england.

    • sidvee says:

      Hey Jay. Good to hear from you. Of course I understand that MSD had his reasons. But the WC analogy is still not making sense to me (re conserving energy from one series to the next). You think an extra ten overs would have really drained the team that much? I’m not sure. But if it is indeed so, I wish him the best. And again, I am excited about England too :)

      • Jay Mo says:

        I dont think it was about the extra 10 overs… i think it was more about emotional expenditure.. they didnt want to leave WI with a big sense of accomplishment or creating history.. they wanted to leave hungry. not sure im explaining this well but i think u get my point right? its msd style and from hearing fletcher defend it, seems like he is bought on it too. msd is pretty cautious about not peaking early. this is where he wants the team right before a key series and he will expect the team to bring it all to the fight come the england tour.

  24. Karthik says:

    Excellent,simply captures the majority of fans’ sentiment like no other article.Also I am surprised and annoyed by the counter points (though only few) to your argument on this forum.I guess it is the typical conservative approach which I thought had changed as reflected in this team.In my teens during 90’s one couldn’t have dreamed of scenarios or opportunities such as these,forget winning games and the only ones that came by were pathetically misused of(Barbados 97 chasing 120). The theme seemed to be why should we rather than the other way around and that is precisely why I am so gutted,disappointed and feel cheated as a fan.It is not about the result, but about the intention and killer instinct to convey to opponents and others that we mean business.Alas a god sent opportunity lost due to ultra-conservative approach and lack of guts on part of Dhoni and co !
    Keep ’em coming Sid ,we love your incisive analysis and forthright elucidation!!

    Karthik- NYC

    • Anand Iyer says:

      If Dhoni had the guts to promote himself up the order and win the WC final for India, and that too coming on the back of some poor batting performances and patchy form, do you think he wouldn’t have the guts to go for victory with 86 off 90 balls? IMO Dhoni is the most ballsy captain we’ve ever had. He had the series in the bag and he was moving on. I was initially disappointed because as an Indian fan I want to see them win every match. But after some reflection I support Dhoni with his decision. Also, I think showing killer instinct and showing the opposition that you mean business would have more of an impact against a strong team, not against a team that is already down in the dumps.

  25. What a narration even more fluent than Brain Lara’s cover drive.

  26. atreyo says:

    baffled, not angry. that explains why you wrote it. think it came off well, with valid arguements. like the spirit it was written with. to borrow a word from someone, they showed lack of intent. would like to know what’s your take on the 2006 st kitts test. cheers.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks Atreyo. We were chasing close to 400 at Kitts. Viru had a go and gave us a chance but we slowed down in the middle session (partly because of the restrictive lengths that the Windies bowlers were using). So there was too much for Dhoni to do. I think the risk of losing was much higher there (and the series was tied 0-0).

  27. Advait G says:

    Quoting what my cousin emailed me,

    “I got no issues with it, they had a go in the first 20 overs and could only score 60 odd runs in 20 overs and lost 3 wicket, so pretty much no chance of getting 90 runs in 15 and – lose a couple of wickets going for big shots as windies bowl wide outside off or around legs and you are under pressure to save a test series… if score was 2 – 0, then it makes sense to just swing away coz losing the final test will not affect series result..

    All this garbage about champion teams will have a go at anything is a load of rubbish… post 2001 how many times did Australia NOT inforce the follow on in fear of a repeat of Calcutta? How many sporting declarations did Australia EVER make in the period when they were ‘champions’ (only one declaration against NZ in Brisbane (2001) comes to mind and they almost lost that – so never tried doing anything ‘sporting’ again!!)”

    • sidvee says:

      Thnks Advait. If it was ‘have a go at anything’, I would have gladly conceded. It was not “anything” IMO and anyway the chance of a defeat were minuscule. Again, appreciate your views.

    • sandeip says:

      Advait,

      Just two points: the stuff about champion teams having a go at anything is not really ‘a load of garbage’. Just because today ‘Citius, altius, fortius’ is taken in context of the next person doesn’t mean it lacks a greater, broader context. There are a thousand examples to add to that spanning all sport, but I think you get what I am trying to put forth.

      The second point about sporting declarations…well, Why make post-2011 Aus the benchmark? Were they? This is a relative Q which does not really make any sense. If I understand even a bit of what sidvee was saying, the point seems to be that MSD’s team did not really stretch themselves to push for victory. Based on what happened in the match, that seems to be a fair assumption. That Ponting’s Australia also did not, makes no difference to an objective, unrelated fact. You put ‘champions’ as the focal point of your argument, while I would say, the focal point of @sidvee’s argument is “Good teams are remembered for what they win but the great ones are forever cherished for how high they fly”. Champions are not necessarily great, nor are greats always Champions. e.g. SRT was a ATG much much before India’s CWC victory, or before their #1 test rank, etc etc.

  28. Advait G says:

    I tend to agree, the only time I ever remember aussies going hell for leather chasing a 4th innings total was against south africa in sydney (06 if I recall correctly), but then was when they were already 2-0 up so dropping that test wouldnt have made any difference to the series score. TEST cricket is not about injudiciously gambling with one passage of play, but ensuring a SERIES win.

  29. Jack says:

    Summary: Dhoni is still at a stage wherein Test series victory for him carries a much higher weightage than proving to the entire world that we are the champion side by chasing the runs !!

    As simple as it is !!

  30. Ravi Sharma says:

    If it weren’t for the rain, India would be 3-0 in this series. That is the simple truth.
    We went to the West Indies, and we won. What really showcases the mindset of this Indian team is Dhoni’s declaration in the second test, which is point 1 in your article.
    In the third test, with 86 off 90 required, chasing would have been an unnecessary gamble.
    The series was in the bag, and Dhoni was moving on, looking ahead at the England test series in less than two weeks, and he simply checked out. Yes, you.must.adjust.expectations. This.is.not.a.20-20.game.
    Some of the second-guessing that is going on regarding his decision is simply unbelievable.
    Your article is mostly well-written in that you summarize all the issues very well. But, your article rests on one point alone, which is your opinion that we could not have lost the test when it was called off. This is merely your opinion and plenty of people, including Dhoni and Fletcher, disagree with you.
    Never seen 7 wickets fall in 15 overs on a fifth day afternoon pitch? Seriously? Three quick-ish wickets and Bishoo and Edwards with their tails up would have had a crack at Harbhajan and the rest of our tail at one end. Even if we had drawn the test from there, all of you second-guessers would be talking about how West Indies nearly drew the series and therefore India should not be number one.
    Where was the upside for Dhoni from batting on? When was the last time any team scored at six an over for 15 overs and won a test match? In the last decade that is? The two examples you use in your article are of no relevance. Australia at Hobart in 2000 scored at 3.3 runs an over and time was not a factor. It was either attack or lose, so they gambled, attacked, and won. The second example, of West Indies at Lords 25 years ago is not relevant either. Gordon Greenidge blasted 214 of 242 deliveries against an attacking field and they romped home with 23 overs to go.
    Ask any poker player – when you are the massive chip leader, you play the odds, and you don’t gamble.

  31. Anand Iyer says:

    Wonderful, wonderful post. Perfectly captured, as someone stated earlier, and I believe that this Indian test team will take its time in becoming the ruthless force its is bound to become with the talent they possess. But I’m not completely surprised with Dhoni’s decision to close shop. Disappointed? Moderately. We are talking about an almost B team winning a Test series against a poor WI squad. If this was a full-strength Indian team against a full-strength England team in England, I would be have been very disappointed. Surprised? Not entirely. Angry? Not at all. Dhoni is an enterprising captain, mostly, as evidenced by his declaration in Barbados. But he is also a pragmatic and safe captain, a captain capable of resorting to all-out defense (8-1 field vs Australia in Nagpur 2008).

  32. deepak nair says:

    do not agree with anything that is written here. WI was bowling well and the indian batting is not very strong without three frontline batsmen. by not showing any unnecessary bravado and not trying anything foolish Dhoni/Fletcher did the right thing. WI has been very competitive in this series but in the end it was weather that robbed india of two more wins.
    all you people criticising the team need a reality check and a chill pill

  33. kg says:

    This Indian team’s reputation is not in the least bit detemined by beating a group of youngsters who are already facing the wrath of a nation whose cricket is in decline. All your examples of greatness are of men (Greenidge, Gilchrist) playing against great teams and terrific bowling. This was just a warm-up for the big tests in England when Dhoni will lay it all down. Just relax and watch a great captain go about his ruthless job.

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  36. Sunil says:

    As I tweeted before it is heartening to see some really sane comments than the usual emotional outpourings veiled as analysis. I must say, Advait’s cousin has said it all for me.

    FACT is Dhoni and think tank chose to fold it. Instead of wondering what the possible motives, gains, reasons behind the decision, all we are doing, as we often do is beating ourselves to death with reasons why he shouldn’t have folded? Instead of trying to understand what went on in their heads, we are going on listing reasons after reasons that exist only in our armchair imaginations conveniently not looking beyond our own expectations.

    What are not FACTS but have been borne out of our own expectations:

    1. Based on one match, no actually one decision we have already compared our team to other teams outside the context and dethroned it from great to good ( how I wish we could define those adjectives on one match or one series ?), ignoring that the possible meanings of both those terms existed or will exist within the confines of our own expectations.
    2. Based on the same one decision we have ourselves decided that our team isn’t worthy of no.1 team or champion team of the world? But isn’t No. 1 team at any time the best ranked team of all the teams around of that time? Or does it also mean that it has to meet all expectations? Or set standards for all other teams ? Or match up to standards set by all the preceding No.1 teams ?

    What is FACT: Everything advait’s cousin has listed in email:
    India had scored only 60 in the first 20 overs.
    India had lost 3 wickets.
    WI were bowling negative line.

    From those facts, it’s likely:
    India would have struggled scoring 90 in 15 overs. Lovely T20 match though?
    India could have still tried, but a wicket here and there ( it’s bloody cricket) and you’ll find yourself trying to save not just a test match but a whole frigging series you thought you had pocketed and against an host attack which has its tail up. ( dangerous any day)

    Less likely, in my view:
    Against all odds, India might have pulled it off. Rest assured, it would have only validated time of our rosy lives we spent before the Telly watching the match, but would NOT had made the team an overnight glorious force to reckon with. Australian team in question would still be a better team by any reasonable measure of talent and application, Greenidge’s innings still would be way better.
    Finally, this whole nonsense of ‘trying and seeing for few more overs’, ‘playing a bit more to get closer’ etc. Frankly it reminds me of very typical desi mindsets. Like people stuck in marriages they didn’t choose, but will endure for some godforsaken reason. From what I’ve seen of him Dhoni doesn’t subscribe to this attitude. He cares a monkey to all the above – he plans and executes like a general managing a war op, say in Iraq and not like a reporter incessantly writing war in Iraq was morally wrong by some abstract ideal . That’s where he differs from all the Indian public figures I’ve known. That includes Mr Tendulkar. Dhoni works on facts, that’s why he has managed to mould this team into a repectable unit over the last few years – no, not just this one team.

    This target has been taken, consolidate your positions, no need to go chasing after a few surviving enemy soldiers . Let’s unroll the map for the next target .

    • sidvee says:

      1 Nobody has dethroned this team. They are very good. And they were not going to be great after winning this one match. But they might have shown us a glimpse of their thinking. Again, it’s totally upto them and they would have had their reasons (though neither Fletcher nor Dhoni articulated those reasons effectively enough IMO but again they don’t play Test matches based on my opinion)

      2 This team is very much worthy of No.1 status.

    • S T Jitendran says:

      I don’t understand why people condescendly accept Dhoni’s decision. Many say that he wants to consolidte position and already looking at Engand series and wants to keep hunger, etc. Why do you not play for the present match which is in limbo instaed folding now to plan for the future series. Don’t you believe when you play present with passion future will take care of itself. Now about hunger for the England series remember half the team will be different and the question of hunger does not equate same. But by playing with passion and aggressively the youngsters in the team would have benfitted a lot.

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