Time to focus on the game

Time to focus on the game

With the Jadeja-Anderson row behind them, India have plenty of work to do

Time to focus on the game

Ability to compartmentalise is one of the finest qualities of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. His mind is remarkably immune to pressures and controversies, dealing with them as daily necessities of his job as the India skipper.

That business-like attitude towards captaincy is, perhaps, the reason behind Dhoni’s success. Now, his teammates should take a leaf out of his book ahead of the fourth Test against England, beginning at the Old Trafford, a venue where India never tasted success in eight attempts, from Thursday.

They have faced setbacks on and off the field in the last week or so. England drubbed them by 266 runs in the third Test at Southampton to level the series 1-1. Indians were firm in their belief that James Anderson should have been punished for pushing and abusing Ravindra Jadeja during the first Test at Trent Bridge.  

But Gordon Lewis, the ICC-appointed Judicial Commissioner, had decided that the England pacer was not guilty of a Level 3 offence that India laid out against him. They have every reason to be dismayed but now they need to banish those thoughts to the far corners of their minds and focus on cricket for the next five days.

Dhoni offered a way forward. “When we deal with social life we need to go forward without dragging the matter too long. We need to move ahead and even in the last game we were focusing on cricket. It is one thing about being a part of the Indian cricket team. There are a lot of things that always float around the team and learn to ignore them as the days go on, and concentrate on cricket,” he said.

Now, let’s focus on cricket. They were on top of the world after a 95-run victory at Lord’s before a defeat at the Ageas Bowl brought them down, brutally exposing some of the still missing links. The biggest worry of all of them could be the lack of runs from Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, the expected batting bulwarks of this line-up.

Pujara had made some starts in this series but failed to kick-on and make a substantial score. It appears more like a mental block than any serious technical issue, but Kohli offers just the opposite. 

The Delhi man has not been able to curb his temptation to prod outside the off-stump, and the English bowlers have exploited that dangerous trait to the optimum.

Dhoni, though, wasn’t overly concerned and hoped Kohli would get back into his rhythm sooner than later. “Virat is batting well, and in cricket you go through a phase where you get out to good balls while you are batting well. I feel that Virat is timing the ball well.

So, it’s just a matter of time before he scores runs. I think this phase will improve him as a cricketer too because if you go thorough only one type of phase that will not improve a player as a cricketer and he will be ready to face any kind of situation,” said Dhoni.

Pujara’s immovability and Kohli’s brilliance are mandatory for India to put the pressure back on England, and there is no better time than this Test to get some runs under their belt.

Opener Shikhar Dhawan too is not among runs, and could be a casualty. The Delhi left-hander could make way for Gautam Gambhir. India could also mull of swapping Dhawan for off-spinner R Ashwin, also a more than handy batsman down the order.

Then the visitors will have to push either Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane, who opens for Mumbai in domestic cricket, to the totem pole position, but that involves a massive reshuffling of the entire line-up.

There is a straw of positive for the Indians, as Bhuvneshwar Kumar seemed to have recovered from his swollen ankle, indicated by the time he spent at nets bowling over the last two days.

If the skies remain overcast, as it has been largely so here for the past few days, then the right-arm pacer could prove a handful. But those little pieces of comforts apart, India need to find more answers than England.