Sachin short on self-belief, not skill
The ability which gave him record centuries cannot disappear overnight, writes Graham Gooch.
After the Test series, there is a buzz about Sachin Tendulkar's visible fallibility. It is not so much the loss of ability as it is lack of confidence.
Tendulkar is still a great player and all his skills are intact but probably he is a bit short on self-belief. Once you are not positive, you tend to miss out on bad balls and flirt with disaster against good ones.
The master batsman needs to tell himself the obvious that all that ability which gave him tons of runs and record centuries cannnot disappear overnight. He too, like his admirers, must be concerned.
As for India, they have been left to count their mistakes. Winning the toss and opting to field, dropping catches galore and then some ordinary batting on the final afternoon are the obvious slips which come to mind. The hosts would also reflect if playing five bowlers or shuffing the batting order hurt its cause.
Rahul Dravid alone is the best man to answer his strange call on toss. Sometimes captains are known to change their mind at the last minute. India could also have perceived a threat in Flintoff and Co. On a lively first-day pitch. It's an old saying that never make a decision based on opposition. Instead, rely on your own team's strengths to make a call.
Dravid could also have been conscious that he was playing a batsman short. Whatever, it gave England the initiative. They did not have to worry about Indian spinners on the final day.
Then there was this issue of dropped chances. It was a classic case of fielding dictating the course of match. When you miss a batsman who is averaging 40-50 in Tests, you actually are conceding 100 runs to the opposition.
So many chances were floored that it is sometimes easy to forget that Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Dravid themselves plucked outstanding catches. Bowlers too lose confidence when a chance is put down. The run-out of Mahendra Singh Dhoni on the third afternoon was a classic case of good fielding defining a game.
India's fielding also held up its thrust on five bowlers. It was a bold move and showed the side was not prepared to sit on a 1-0 lead. It conveyed their intent to capture 20 England wickets in double quick time. I have always thought you play four bowlers only when two of them are world class.
Kumble is surely a great one and Harbhajan possibly another one but he is presently out-of-form. Hence, it made sense to seek support from three faster men and frankly all looked good to me.
Still, it shortened the odds on batting, more so when strokemakers such as Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar were out of touch. Indian wicketkeeper looks a talent but he is not the most cautious batsman around. It is strange to describe his effort in the second innings, or of a few other Indian batters, who threw caution to wind when unshakeable resolve was the need of the hour.
If England today is grinning from ear-to-ear, the credit most certainly belongs to Andrew Flintoff. In my view, he is the best old ball bowler in the world. He has aggression and control and summons up reverse swing at will. He was also dynamic with the bat and did not shy away from fielding in the slip cordon.
Without him, this England side would be disjointed. It made me look for the scorecard of the Jubilee Test when England last won in Mumbai in 1980. It is a sort of coincidence that Ian Botham, another all rounder like Flintoff, captured 10 wickets and slammed a century in that game. Two spinners in Derek Underwood and John Emburey then did not do anything notable. However, Shaun Udal, made his presence felt in Mumbai on the final afternoon.
Still, it was Flintoff all the way. In the last couple of years, he has been the Go-To bowler for England and nearly always supplies the goods. His dismissal of Dravid in the final afternoon was the telling moment of match.
Flintoff stepped into the breach when trouble was mounting by the minute for England. Michael Vaughan was absent and so were a few other regulars. But he nearly always inspired his men to dig in their heels. Only Mohali was eminently forgettable.
Younger faces such as Alastair Cook, Monty Panesar and Owais Shah were essentially second choices but did not let it come in the way of their performance. It sort of reaffirms my belief that when the door is shut on some, it kind of opens up for others.