Analysis of a defeat
Most Indian cricket supporters will react with horror and disgust at India’s batting collapse on the last day, but the insipid events on the final day was merely the last act of a team crumbling under pressure. But, why was the pressure on India in the final Test when they were leading 1-0 in the series?
The phrase “psychological edge” is thrown around far too often to explain victory and defeat that it has become a well worn cliché so I shall refrain from using that. But momentum is easily deciphered, and it can be a powerful force. India won the second Test in Mohali chasing a tricky target on the final day. Coming into the Third Test in Mumbai, the momentum was with India, and when England lost Steve Harmison before the match it was well and truly India’s to lose. But, instead of batting first and taking on a depleted English bowling attack Rahul Dravid chose to field. He thrust great responsibility on his three young fast bowlers, two of whom were playing only their second Test match. Their collective first day failure resulted in England finishing the day on 272 for the loss of only 3 wickets, courtesy a gritty century by the out of form opener Andrew Strauss and a brash half century from the unknown Owais Shah. All the momentum had disappeared in one day, and India were left trying to catch up for the rest of the match.
They were up against a very good England side with some of the finest bowlers of the current era in Andrew Flintoff and an incredible Matthew Hoggard, who just didn’t allow the Indian batting to get away. Although the Indian bowlers pulled it back a little on the second day, the English bowlers were even better. And on the final day, they made a mockery of the Indian batting on its home soil. 100 all out! That is going to rankle for quite a while.
Rahul Dravid’s goal is for the Indian cricket team to be the best in the world, and that can happen only if India wins Test matches abroad. Winning Test matches abroad is one of the most difficult tasks for India, and to achieve that India needs fast bowlers. In Munaf Patel and Sreesanth he has unearthed two young bowlers with ability and fire. His only failure in strategy was in not allowing for the inexperience of his young fast bowlers. It completely backfired and Dravid will be ruing his decision to insert England after winning the toss. The end result was a humiliating Test loss and a series win thrown away. That is much more difficult to swallow, than a failed one day game strategy. But, even in this dark hour of defeat one must grant that Dravid is a brave captain with an admirable courage of conviction.