Dhoni’s men are looking like deer in the headlights

2011-08-03 00:00

ENGLAND at home was always going to be a tough proposition for India. Not only because of conditions — which are tailor-made to suit the English bowlers — but mostly because India playing off the sub continent are out of their comfort zone.

In this Test series it also appears they are out of their depth. The first two Test matches of the fourmatch series have exposed India and their inherent weakness on pitches away from home.

India’s star studded line-up looked woeful. On the flattest tracks in the world at home they are heroes, but away from them they are fragile.

England’s dominance in this series has Dhoni’s men looking more like deer in the headlights than the current Test champions. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were the only batsmen prepared to put their bodies in the way of some hostile English bowling at Trent Bridge.

India has won eleven of their last 23 Test matches in the period from November 2009 to date. It’s revealing that fifteen of these Tests have been played on the sub continent. To put their achievements into perspective; of their eleven Test victories nine have been on the subcontinent.

Their record away reads played eight, lost three, drawn three and won two. In contrast to won eight, drawn five, lost two on the subcontinent.

Accustomed to playing in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans at home it appears that India have yet to learn how to dig deep on tour.

The Indian team and management have come in for harsh criticism and are squirming under the media spotlight.

For the first time in his career the normally calm and collected MS Dhoni is feeling the heat. Normally the first with a joke or something to say, it’s clear from his post match ramblings that he is short of answers.

New coach Duncan Fletcher is under even more pressure.

It will be a true test of his mettle to see if he can turn India’s fortunes around in the series but it will be tough. It’s not easy to tell superstars with super-sized egos how they should be playing — especially when you are fighting to save the series.

When Australia dominated Test cricket they appeared hard and ruthless with enviable depth in every department and that is exactly how England is looking.

No longer the “rosy cheeked poms”, Strauss’s men have a lean and hungry look about them.

It’s really hard to see how India is going to get back into the series. At this stage the 20/20 and ODI fixtures must look very appealing to them.

Besides the physical injuries India have sustained in the series so far, it’s the psychological damage that will be taking its toll.

England thoroughly deserves to go to number one in the Test rankings, but until they’ve beaten South Africa at home, I’ll need some convincing that they really are the best.

Neil Johnson is a commentator and former Zimbabwean, Dolphins and Western Province cricketer who resides in the Midlands.

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