Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where is the aura? Team India down in the dumps ahead of 3rd Test against England


After being at the top for two years, India may not have expected their world to turn topsy-turvy in just two weeks; but the defeats at Lord's and Trent Bridge have done exactly that, leaving them virtually down in the dumps.


It showed rather alarmingly in their body language here at the Edgbaston ground on Monday morning as they prepared for the remaining two Tests. Being back-to-back matches, India won't even find the time, space or energy to regroup or revitalize from any major setback.

They need to win both the games, with the first starting on Wednesday, to hang on edgily to their World No. 1 ranking. But one more defeat and England will catapult over South Africa, from No. 3 to No. 1. It is the final stretch for both, the champions and the contenders.

In such a scenario, you would have hoped - if not expected - the players to show a little more enthusiasm, if not passion, in their penultimate training session; it was glaringly missing, though, as they went through the routine in a lackadaisical manner.

England, on the other hand, looked that much more desperate and fervent in their approach. Like always, the morning began with a light loosening-up session; it quickly dissolved into the mandatory football game but the players were barely kicked about it.

The bonhomie or even the desire to go one-up was conspicuously missing as they scrambled after the ball listlessly. Where had the confidence, if not the aura, evaporated?

If that was not enough, they trooped away from the stunning ground towards the "nets" in ones and twos.

Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid took guard quickly enough and Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar and Amit Mishra bowled at them, with support from local bowlers and fielding coach Trevor Penny.

The others, however, seemed least interested. If Ishant Sharma sat in one corner, Abhinav Mukund was in another. Sachin Tendulkar quietly padded up, keeping an eye on Dravid's footwork. Virat Kohli walked around aimlessly while Suresh Raina was not his usual energetic self either.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, after showing his fast bowling skills in the first Test, worked on his spinning abilities. Maybe, he realizes that he may need to back this up now in the absence of Harbhajan Singh. Pragyan Ojha, who finally joined the team, seemed in his own world too.

All the others who are likely to figure in the playing XI had a go with their bats, including Virat Kohli. Mukund, who scored a hundred in the practice game, didn't even bother to pad up, which means he is not in the reckoning at all. There was no sign of Sreesanth for the most part either.

Clearly, this team is not just dispirited; it is too low on confidence and will need a miracle or a standout performance by someone to make a comeback.

Sadly, Edgbaston is not the best place for such a turnaround. India's record here, even when it used to be a batting track, is dismal. Now, of course, it has a tinge of green and promises to be pacy and helpful to England's attack.

Maybe, that's why they are already down in the dumps.

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