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HindustanTimes Wed,26 Nov 2014

Cricket

Captain Cooks India's goose
Nilankur Das, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, December 06, 2012
First Published: 10:41 IST(6/12/2012)
Last Updated: 02:03 IST(7/12/2012)
M S Dhoni on the crease during  Day 2 of the 3rd India-England Cricket Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Agencies

The Mumbai Test and the one in progress in Kolkata have broken a few myths about Indian cricket. That India are a batting heavy side, play spin very well because they produce good spinners and that they are bad travelers, but tigers in their backyard.

Of all the above, the travelling part has stayed a fact -- their last eight matches away were all losses. But the image that India are very strong at home and the rest of the above might need some serious repair work now.

No fluke
Just to drive in the fact that Mumbai was no flash in the pan, at the Eden too, albeit under slightly different but still spin-friendly conditions, England showed they have better spinners.

They have far better pacers who can be effective even in the subcontinent. And to top it all, they have better batsmen who can adapt fast and apply themselves.

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England also showed they are hungry to regain the No 1 Test ranking they had snatched from India in August 2011 and lost after 12 months, following their defeat to South Africa.

Day Two has also negated everything Gautam Gambhir had predicted might happen after the first day's play.

He had said England batsmen too would face similar problems against reverse swing from Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma and so anything over 300 would be a competitive total.

By stumps on the second day, that claim was seen lying flat on its face. India's fielding coach Trevor Penny accepted that the wicket hadn't changed much. "Our bowlers could not really match what James Anderson did on Wednesday," he said.

Crucial drop
For once, just after lunch on Thursday, Zaheer induced a nick off skipper Alastair Cook, who was batting on 17.

Cheteshwar Pujara floored that at first slip and it remained the only slip of the day for England. Even the dismissal of Nick Compton, given leg-before on second thoughts by umpire Rod Tucker, was something our bowlers can't be credited for. Replays showed Compton got a glove to it.

India, on the other hand, has been slipping since Mumbai, without signs of its arrest. The team management gave the media a slip sending Penny for the post match media conference but even the poor Zimbabwean had to face some music.

Not just Pujara's drop, the Indian ground fielding was as sad as their bowling. Even a direct hit and later a diving save by Sachin Tendulkar at mid-on failed to lift it.

Too defensive
MS Dhoni, a day before this Test, had rejected criticism of him saying he doesn't read too much into failures or success because India is an emotional country.

"They make you a star overnight if you are successful and bring you down when you fail," he had said. By that logic, the tried and tested idea of learning from mistakes is a thing of the past.

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Hence it wasn't surprising to see R Ashwin bowling round the wicket to right-hander Compton, something he and Harbhajan Singh did for long stretches in Mumbai without luck. He was obviously too defensive.

England openers were quick to spot that and it gave them so much confidence that left-handed Cook stepped out to hit Ashwin for a six over the sightscreen. Compton did likewise to Pragyan Ojha.

Five centuries in five Tests as captain, the highest century getter for England, the youngest to 7000 runs beating Sachin Tendulkar - Cook achieved all that during his unbeaten knock of 136, his third ton in three matches in this series.

England are exactly 100 shy of India's total with nine wickets in hand, more importantly Cook is there in the middle, looking good for more.


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