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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014
Nothing more satisfying than taming hosts
VVS Laxman
November 29, 2012
First Published: 00:58 IST(29/11/2012)
Last Updated: 01:03 IST(29/11/2012)

England showed tremendous character and conviction to bounce back from the big loss in Ahmedabad. What made their victory special, apart from the fact that they turned things around dramatically, was that it was achieved in the most Indian of conditions, on a difficult pitch that made huge demands on technique and temperament.

It was the kind of pitch where for a new batsman, life was extremely tough, but for someone who spent some time at the wicket, there were runs for the taking. Pujara showed that in the first innings, as did Ashwin, who I thought batted beautifully.

Key figure
Cook carried his excellent form of the first Test to the Wankhede, but to me, the man who was the difference between the two teams was Kevin Pietersen.

I can imagine the pressure Pietersen must have been under coming into the Mumbai Test. He had just been recalled to the England team, and had a tough time in Ahmedabad when Ojha tied him up in knots. Pietersen is the kind of batsman who likes to impose himself on the bowling, and given the way he bats, there is always the possibility that he will get out in trying to dominate. When he does get out in the manner in which he did in Ahmedabad in both innings, it does look a little amusing, but when he is firing on all cylinders, he is simply magnificent.

His method is unique, and he plays the most unorthodox strokes, making it very difficult to set fields to him. Cook was his measured, unhurried self, but the real impact came from Pietersen. Some of the strokes he played on that pitch took my breath away. There is very little you can do as a bowling unit when someone plays as outrageously as Pietersen did, though I do feel India's spinners could have bowled better on a track that gave them considerable purchase.

Exceptional skill
Monty Panesar was as exceptional with the ball as Pietersen was with the bat. England had definitely missed a trick by not playing him in Ahmedabad. He showcased his skills with a terrific performance; 11 wickets in a Test match against India will be a huge highlight in his career, given how well India batsmen play the turning ball.

I can say from experience that nothing gives a team more satisfaction than beating the opposition in their own den, and turning their own conditions against them. I remember with delight our victory against England at Headingley in 2002, in typical English conditions that were mastered superbly by Rahul, Sachin and Sourav and then by our bowlers. England will, I am sure, be as buoyant today as we were after that Test that we won by an innings. India's challenge will be to regroup.

Pujara has impressed me with each successive outing, and I can foresee a long and successful future for him. Even at this early stage of his career, his composure, maturity and temperament have shone through. He hasn't been fazed by the prospect of controlling the innings at No 3, a pivotal position in any team at any level of the game.

I was also delighted for Gautam and the fight he showed in the second innings. He has been under pressure for a while and responded in a typically pugnacious fashion. I sincerely believe this could be the start of a good run for Gauti, because India will need the top order to fire consistently in the next two Tests if they are to recover from this defeat.

360 Corporate Relations
The writer is a former India player


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