After winning the Lord`s Test comprehensively, MS Dhoni not only gave the Indian fans a huge moment to celebrate an overseas win, but the manner in which his team had been playing, an overseas series win looked quite possible. All Dhoni needed to do was replace a few players with more deserving ones, and further deflate England in the third Test.
But only if Dhoni did what all of us thought he should, he wouldn`t be the enigma that he has become over the years.
While he should have further strengthened the squad to send England on the backfoot, he went back to being defensive and played an extra batsman. The choice was even more baffling, as he included Rohit Sharma, while Gautam Gambhir – who many believe should have been a part of the team since the first Test, was once again reduced to being a mere spectator. MS Dhoni also persisted with Ravindra Jadeja – someone who has picked 17 wickets from 6 Tests away from home.
Ravindra Jadeja is a fine talent, so is Shikhar Dhawan. But I doubt whether these two should be regularly playing for India overseas. On Indian pitches, both these players become match-winners. Remember how Jadeja dismissed Michael Clarke five out of six times when the Kangaroos visited India last year? But Dhoni can`t persist with Jadeja just because he is capable of producing such moments. The southpaw has been playing as an all-rounder in the team, and apart from his poor show with the ball, he has managed to hit just one half-century from 11 Tests.
Likewise, apart from scoring a century followed by 98 runs against New Zealand on their home soil earlier this year, Dhawan has looked extremely vulnerable on foreign pitches. He might have played just 10 matches, but it shouldn`t be used as an excuse to camouflage his failures. Moreover, while someone like Ajinkya Rahane and others are trying their best to put a price tag on their wicket, the team cannot have a batsman right there at the top who doesn`t learn from his past mistakes and gets out in similar fashion again and again.
In one of his columns some time back, Saqlain Mushtaq rightly pointed out India`s mistake of not playing Ravichandran Ashwin, despite England having six left-handers in their ranks. Jadeja has been totally ineffective in overseas conditions, and Ashwin is any day a better spinner than him, not to forget his technique which is far better than Jadeja.
The English pitches may not provide much assistance for spinners, but Moeen Ali is a fine example as to how bowling with accurate line and length can produce wickets. Being a part-time off-spinner, when he can trouble the Indian batsmen, there is no reason why Ashwin can`t deliver being a specilaist spinner.
India have a fine batting line-up in Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and MS Dhoni. For the fourth Test, India must play Ashwin and Gambhir instead of Jadeja and Dhawan. The remaining four bowling spots should be occupied by seamers.
If India have to dominate any format for a long duration, they will have to focus a lot on consistency. Players need to understand that one good performance in ten Tests isn`t the key to cementing their place in the squad. It`s high time the selectors send out a strong message to the entire team with Ravindra Jadeja and Shikhar Dhawan being the first ones to receive it.