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India gets a Test of its own ploys

The word ‘revenge’ peppered most previews in the build-up to the ongoing India-England series. In 2011, India surrendered the number one Test ranking to hosts England following a 4-0 whitewash. So it wasn’t unnatural that India’s nine-wicket victory at Ahmedabad last week was seen as a measure of retribution for a country still smarting from the 4-0 thrashing.

However, M S Dhoni’s ploy of greeting visitors with ‘rank turners’ went horribly wrong on Monday with England inflicting a humiliating 10-wicket defeat upon the hosts on a Mumbai track where the ball turned square right from day one. While Indian batsmen, known as best players of spin, looked especially susceptible to English tweakers, the visiting batsmen, not following any subcontinent-specific mantra to tackle spin, trusted on their abilities to make runs under challenging conditions. Going by form displayed by the two teams so far in the series, the word ‘revenge’ sounds far-fetched with India having much to ponder before the third Test gets underway in Kolkata next week. Before the second Test, the pressure was entirely on England, a team known for its frailties against quality spin in trying conditions of the sub-continent. However, the way Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen pummeled the spinners in Ahmedabad, even the staunchest of home fans will not give India the upper hand, no matter how many spinners they stuff their side with.

Batting has always been India’s strong point at home but the present line-up, found all at sea against Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann, indeed looks incapable of tackling quality bowling in favourable conditions. Apart from Cheteshwar Pujara and Virender Sehwag to some extent, none of the other batters look strong enough to take the charge. The biggest let down has been Sachin Tendulkar, whose scores of 13, 8 and 8 in the present series underline the abilities of one of cricket’s all time greats. It’s time the master, who has achieved whatever there is to achieve in the game, seriously thinks about calling it quits. Sachin has enjoyed a magnificent career spanning a whooping 23 years and deserves to be remembered for being a prolific scorer, not for his waning powers. Unlike Australian selectors, known for the ruthlessness they apply to get rid of dry woods, Indian selectors don’t have the spine to take harsh decisions which might lead to public uproar. But it’s time they speak to Sachin about his future plans.
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