It was the same old story all over again. Ishant Sharma, the hero of the Lords test, looked on dejectedly, while his teammates squandered all his hard work and repaid him with a Sisyphean task for the final Test—if it comes to that.
Sharma injured his ankle and will be sitting out the fourth Test as well.
His replacement, Pankaj Singh, proved to be an inadequate replacement. His time is past though he is a game trier. A few chances of this bowling went a begging but if Dhoni was brave and honest with himself, he would have admitted that Varun Aaron or Ishwar Pandey were better bets. You do not replace your main strike bowler with a medium-pace trundler.
Rohit Sharma’s entry into the squad in place of Stuart Binny upset the balance of the squad. Just four main bowlers and two-three part-time spinners is hardly the recipe for a side looking to seal the series.
The Indian skipper does not have a lot of trust in his top order and preferred to either go in with an extra batsman or a couple of all-rounders. This decision seemed sound in the first two tests in retrospect; it was the lower order that saved the team blushes in the first three innings.
It is time MS Dhoni had a hard look at his resources and what he’s trying to do with them.
Gambhir has the gumption and the patience to play long innings. Bring to mind his effort at Napier, New Zealand in 2009.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli stay. Class will tell.
Rohit Sharma goes out. The talented Mumbaikar has even his most ardent fans tearing their hair out in frustration; I am but one amongst them. Duncan Fletcher should have a quiet word with the young man and tell him that if this continues he will be touring a lot more—with the India ‘A’ side.
Dhoni continues and should back himself to the hilt about being aggressive with the bat.
At the start of the series, Dhoni said:
“I’ve realised that I have to be far more aggressive in my batting because I play much better that way than when I try to play like a proper batsman. It’s important to back your instincts and not think too much about the situation. I shouldn’t look to bat out time because there are other batsmen who can do that. If the ball is in my slot – whether it’s the first or the last – I should go for it.”
They were not the most heralded of the Indian bats when the series began. But they have quietly become the mainstays of the line-up.
Ravindra Jadeja, bat and moustache twirled, sits out. Ravichandra Ashwin comes in.
(How the selectors could overlook Amit Mishra and Praghyan Ojha for such an important series is anybody’s guess. Among the back-ups, are two wicket-keepers who may probably never get a game. It is effectively a 15-member squad.)
Varun Aaron and Ishwar Pandey lend much-needed support to Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami.
My side for Old Trafford:
Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, B Kumar, M Shami, V Aaron and I Pandey.