Cook has stolen a march over Dhoni

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 10, 2012 09:01 hrs

Drastic situations call for drastic steps. And at this stage my mind goes back to 1966. England had been outplayed in the series against West Indies and were down 0-3 by the end of the fourth Test of the five-match series. The selectors adopting a nothing to lose and all to gain approach went in for an overhaul. 

They made five changes in the team for the final Test including changing the leadership by sacking Colin Cowdrey and handing over the captaincy to Brian Close, leading England for the first time. The result? An astonishing turn about that saw England win by an innings inside four days.

If the Indian selectors have not exactly gone in for an overhaul they at least have heard the alarm bells and taken the right decisions. The axing of Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan is to be welcomed as is the move to include Ravindra Jadeja and Parvinder Awana. Both Harbhajan and Zaheer are clearly past their best while Yuvraj, for all his talent, has not made best use of the ample opportunities that have come his way. 

In handing Test caps to Jadeja and Awana, the selectors have rewarded both talent as well as form around the domestic circuit. Jadeja has notched up a feat that has not been performed by any Indian cricketer while the 26-year-old Delhi lad Awana is one of the most promising young fast bowlers in the country today. 

Piyush Chawla's recall may raise a few eyebrows if one goes by his Test figures. I have always believed that a leg spinner should always be included when England are the opponents given their discomfiture against this mode of bowling over the years but I would have thought that either Amit Mishra or Rahul Sharma would have a better choice.

There is no need to press panic buttons but some chopping and changing is in order particularly after the dismal showing by the Indian team in the last two Tests. Whatever the record may be abroad it was always considered that India at home were unbeatable. This is not an idle boast but is based on facts. 

Before Sunday's defeat India had not lost two Tests in a row since they went down to South Africa in February-March 2000. They have not lost a series at home since going down to Australia in 2004. Not too long ago they enjoyed a fabulous run of ten Test victories on the trot at home. They had not lost at the Eden Gardens since going down to Pakistan in the Asian Test Championship match in 1999. 

This time they have lost two Tests to a team which was clearly the underdogs coming into the series. And the manner in which they are performing Alastair Cook's squad could well become the first England team to win a Test series in India for 28 years.

Indeed full credit to England for coming back strongly after losing the first Test by a comprehensive margin. They have displayed all the qualities that are paramount in cricket's traditional format - dedication and determination, concentration and commitment. It is a reward for hard work and methodical planning. 

They have outbatted, outbowled and outfielded the Indians and even in matters of strategy and tactics Cook has stolen a march over Dhoni who has been strangely lethargic. Whatever happened to the enterprising and innovative Dhoni who even in Test cricket did not wait for things to happen but made things happen? 

The field placements have been defensive, the bowling changes unimaginative and it appears that he has little control over matters in general. Cook on the other hand has made adroit use of the resources at his command while when it comes to leading from the front he has only Michael Clarke as his competitor in international cricket.  

The England bowling has been particularly impressive. James Anderson and Steve Finn have been prepared to bend their backs and extract pace and bounce from surfaces which are not exactly helpful. Graeme Swann given his reputation as the world's best spin bowler was always expected to be successful but Monty Panesar has been a big bonus for Cook. Given his past woeful record against India who would have thought him capable of taking eleven wickets in a match, a match winning performance?    

The Indians have on the other hand shown an utter disregard for Test cricket's traditional qualities. They have lost on a turning track and they have lost on a good batting track - in short in conditions they should have revelled in. They are behind in the contest and in danger of surrendering the series because the cricketers are playing on reputation and not on form. 

Man for man there is very little to choose between the teams when one examines the squads on paper. The big difference is that England have played above their potential while India have played below their potential. This is clearly driven home by the stats for the series.

More from Sify: