India captain MS Dhoni blamed the absence of key players and the team’s batting failures for the latest heavy defeat at Trent Bridge on Monday.
India, losing the second Test by 319 runs, are now 2-0 down in the series and looked far from the world’s number one-ranked team, a status now at stake if England win the series by two clear Tests.
India have missed Virender Sehwag in both Tests because of a shoulder injury, their senior pace bowler Zaheer Khan, who was injured at Lord’s, and opener Gautam Gambhir who missed the second Test with a bruised arm.
“It’s been tough because of the circumstances,” said Dhoni. “Missing Zaheer in the first Test and Harbhajan Singh in the second and not having our specialist opener also made it tough.”
Dhoni, however, was pleased with the way his pace attack of Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Sreesanth sustained their effort in Nottingham but felt the team’s failures were more to do with the batsmen failing.
“It’s important to put runs on the board and we’re slightly lacking that. Right from the last series we played, we haven’t scored consistently so that’s also a bit of a concern.”
Sehwag flies in for final two Tests
Sehwag will join his teammates today, boosting the tourists’ hopes of fielding their regular openers for the remaining two Tests.
Sehwag has been out of action since undergoing shoulder surgery in May and missed the tour of West Indies the first two tests against England. In Sehwag’s absence, Abhinav Mukund opened with Gambhir and added 63 runs in the first-innings at Lord’s but the latter could not open in the second-innings after a Matt Prior sweep shot struck his elbow.
Harbhajan faces wrath
India’s morale-sapping humiliation has triggered a desperate wave of soul-searching back home with some former players questioning spinner Harbhajan’s place in the side and the appointment of coach Duncan Fletcher.
“There’s no point discussing his lack of flight or lack of spin or his action because we have been doing that for years,” said Bishan Bedi of the off-spinner who conceded 218 runs for a single wicket at Lord’s. “He lacks guile, and that’s a great handicap for a spinner. The right areas to bowl lie not on the 22 yards but in between your ears, in the mind.”
England resilience delights Strauss
Meanwhile, England captain Andrew Strauss praised his team’s resolve following the win that was achieved with more than a day to spare.
“To be 120-odd for eight you’re behind the eight-ball, but Broad and Graeme Swann have done that sort of stuff for us a few times before and it’s hard for captains to set fields for,” Strauss told Sky Sports. “Then Broad came with the second new ball to get us back in the game. I’m proud of what we did this week, we’ve played some great cricket and come back at important times.
“Bresnan was unlucky not to play in the first Test and he was outstanding with bat and ball in this Test.”
England ‘hunger’ impresses Warne
Shane Warne has likened England to the successful Australia side of which he was a key member after seeing Strauss’ men thrash India.
“England are improving and have a hunger for victory,” Warne, 41, wrote in The Daily Telegraph. “They have a good team spirit and, as Strauss says, they can still improve. When Australia were on top and dominating world cricket, the things we wanted to do were score fast, take the game away from the opposition and intimidate the tail.”
“It’s important to put runs on the board and we’re lacking that. Right from the last series we played, we haven’t scored so that’s also a concern. We have also lost one of our openers so Rahul had to open.”
“I’m proud of what we did; we’ve played great cricket and come back at important times. We were twice in a position where India looked very much like favourites to win the game — and we dragged it round.”
“They are the best England team I have ever seen. Tim Bresnan is the perfect example of how outstanding England have become. He is bowling quickly and he looked like a proper batsman.”
“England are improving and have a hunger for victory. They have a good team spirit and they can still improve. Most impressive about England was how aggressively they approached the situation.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.