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Skills as pertinent as grit and determination

Posted December 1st, 2016, 11:56 AM IST

Skills as pertinent as grit and determination

Grit, determination and the old British bulldog spirit is all fine but they become secondary to the technical skills and temperament of building long innings against spin-friendly bowling conditions. Team England just did not have the wherewithal to put up a fight in Mohali because they failed to make capital of a good toss to win. By folding up for a well below par score, Alastair Cook's men surrendered the Test and with it the series because by no stretch of imagination can we give his side a chance to win the remaining two Tests.

This Test win can be put down to the three musketeers. The bowling allrounders have been lending their shoulder to the batting yoke for quite a while now even in home Tests. This rescue act of the trio went way beyond earlier efforts of Jadeja, fittingly enough man of the match for his courageous innings at a crucial time, Ashwin, as fluent a batsman as we have seen in the upper middle order in a while now whose main task is undoubtedly his teasing off spin and Jayant Yadav, two Tests old and already looking a settled player and a good off spinner to boot. The presence of the last named in the side seems to have triggered a healthy competition with all three raising the bar.

Until another cricketer from Gujarat lent a defiant touch to the Test match by batting with a broken finger, it was Team India all the way thanks to Sir Jadeja and Co. The precocious Hameed was brilliant in learning to adjust not to hold the bat with the broken little finger of his left hand as he went on to demonstrate that the Indian spinners could be blocked or hit. Very few of his colleagues had that defensive technique to play spin. There were those like Bairstow and Buttler who showed that they could cope with the challenge, but not long enough to make substantial total England needed most on grabbing the opportunity to bat.

Team India may have run away with the Test from a point when they were barely able to match the England total despite another gung-ho knock by the skipper.

This is where the musketeers took over the plot and transformed a competitive Test into a near rout. England can reflect that they had done well enough to win the last three series against India, including the middle one here on Indian soil, but then they had batsmen like Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell who could not only stay in the middle but also keep the scoreboard moving and Cook was four years younger. This batting lineup seems to stretch all the way to nine as does India's, but too many England batsmen seem to believe the next on in the order would do the job.

On the other hand, we had Parthiv Patel, good old baby face, who showed he is still capable of delivering when in front of the stumps. He is still not so safe behind the wickets, but in his aggressive batting approach to the matter of opening the innings he brought a touch of the positive to India's cricket. His attitude was important in making light of even the very modest target India had to meet to get clearly ahead in the series, which is another one in the bag bar the shouting.

It was a near perfect match for India, save in the catching in which department both teams were found lacking once again. To come back from scrapping for the lead to dominating with the tail and then ending the resistance with Ashwin beginning the wrecking job on a wearing pitch with elan once again showed a resilience that upheld the team's top computer ranking. It's not certain this heady feeling of a team capable of getting every time it is down will last. Everything would hinge on how well India travels, particularly beyond the subcontinent. But until then it is best to sit back and enjoy what Team India is doing in stretching their look of invincibility at home.

England may take heart from cricket having become too much of a home side thing these days. The South Africans have defied the pattern with an emphatic series victory in Australia though they lost the third Test comprehensively. Even Pakistan, the other team in contention for the top place and was briefly no.1 before Inda took over again, found travelling into a different time zone from the pitches of the Emirates far too hard and capitulated 2-0 in New Zealand to fall way behind India on the table now. The world Test order will stay this way for a while.

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