There is no shame in defeat. If it’s true in life, it’s truer in sports. What matters at the end of the day is that how you lose. It shows your character; it tells about your ability to fight under pressure, it separates you from the losers.
Number one Test side India’s defeat at Lord’s is a typical example of a No 1 team which does not possess the mindset of a numero uno Test side. What would have rankled the cricket fans around the world is not India’s defeat at Lord’s, but the way they went about losing it. Champions do lose despite the fact that they don’t want to be the vanquished. That’s why they give their oppositions tough fights till the end. They simply don’t surrender.
It’s not that India found everything perfect for the match. They lost the service of their pace spearhead Zaheer Khan on the every first day of the match due to a hamstring injury. They did not have flamboyant opener Virender Sehwag in their team. You can’t do anything about the injuries which are very much part and parcel of modern-day sports. What you could do is that you must stand up and be counted during the crunch times.
Despite all the negatives that surrounded them, they had not lost everything. India had a bowler who is the highest wicket-taker in the world among the playing lot; they had three batting geniuses who combined to score more than 30,000 runs in Test matches.
Great teams are those who thrive on difficult situations, who sense opportunity out of every adversity. India, on the other hand, were intimidated by the adversities rather than looking for the opportunities.
From the very start of the Lord’s Test, Dhoni looked to be a defensive captain. His decision to bowl first on the relatively good Lord’s surface after wining the toss was baffling. When you have batsmen like Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Gambhir in your side, you should never doubt your ability to bat first irrespective of the venues and the oppositions. It is always advisable to bat first in a Test match. Batting first is the only way out after winning a toss unless you are playing on green-tops.
Dhoni may not know, but it was more than hundred years ago that a certain WG Grace told the essence of batting first in a Test. The father of cricket said, “When you win the toss – bat. If you are in doubt, think about it, then bat. If you have very big doubts, consult a colleague – then bat”.
It is reminiscent of the 1990 England series when captain Azhar’s decision to send the oppositions proved to be a disastrous decision as English opener Graham Gooch slammed a triple ton which led to India’s huge defeat. What has differentiated Dhoni from most of his predecessors so far is his ability to play cricket in a way only champion teams know, playing to win, never playing not to lose. If the Dominica Test said something about Dhoni’s changed mental make-up towards the game off late when India decided not to chase 86 off 90 remaining balls, Lord’s Test showed that Dhoni has started to find Test cricket little difficult due to his own poor form with the bat.
After Zaheer’s injury, it seemed that India lost the match in the beginning of the second day when Zaheer did not take to the field. The body language of the Indians suggested that they knew that they can’t bowl the oppositions out in the match.
India could have given the opposition run for their money, had they believed in the ability to fight. They let the England off the hook after finding them tottering at 62/5 in the second innings. As soon as Matt Prior started hitting the bowlers out, Indian bowlers’ shoulders drooped, their confidence vanished, they started bowling like men without any fire in their bellies.
The batters were no better. Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar were disappointing. The hype around Sachin’s hundredth Test century proved to be an anti-climax. The aura of history, the milestones, and the battle royals between the two top teams surrounding the Test match proved to be a damp squib.
Throughout the Test match India did not behave like a No 1 Test side. Only time will tell that whether it is the beginning of an end of India’s domination in Tests. Whatever the future holds for the Indian team, they certainly did not fit the bill as the No 1 Test team during the five days at Mecca of cricket.