What India must do to win
the Test Series in England:
Plan A: Throughout the Oval Test, India must play for a win and at no point give England the impression that they are content with a draw. Our batsmen must play their ‘new’ natural game without being over-attacking. At Trent Bridge, despite India’s modest run-rates (compared to England) and restrained top order, the final result was a win. There is no need to change tactics now. Continue to make the English come at you, rather than the other way round. This is in-sync with India’s new thinking — “Win ugly rather than lose pretty.” So even if you miss out on some flashy Tendulkar trademarks and VVS specials, there are always the sports’ archives.
Do not target Kevin Pietersen with banter — he is at his most vicious then. KP is his worst enemy and often self-
destructs. Stick to a conservative plan. Do not set over-attacking fields; do not get too defensive too early either. Always have a few players in the midfield for that mistimed heave.
Target Michael Vaughan. At Trent Bridge, Vaughan was even more stirred after Sreesanth’s beamer to Pietersen. Target Monty Panesar. After the new ball, Monty is England’s biggest weapon. If Panesar is ripped into, Vaughan will be forced to over-bowl the three seamers or even bowl part-timers Collingwood and himself. That’s when it can all go terribly awry for Vaughan. Also, India could even promote Dhoni to target Panesar. The game can be won and lost depending on how the Indians handle Panesar.
India should be weary of Paul Collingwood. He has an intensity that makes him ideal for pressure cooker situations. After KP and Vaughan, the England’s new ODI captain is the wall to breach.
Plan B: If KP gets away, India should not hesitate to pull a ‘Nasser Hussain’ on him. That is, Anil Kumble or another part-time spinner should then bowl a negative leg stump line to him. Ask the Aussies how it works.
Dravid should be alive to key periods in the game — when the balance is shifting towards England. That’s the time for him to refrain from overzealous 7-2 fields and realise that Zaks is no Pigeon. Or for that matter, Jumbo is no Warnie.
Plan C: If it appears England is closing in on a win on the fifth day,
India must not hesitate to do all it can to secure a draw. And if that means playing dirty, so be it. It’s worth remembering, the Australians did not become the world’s best Test team by playing pretty.