MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli have proved India have inner strength, but even if they win this match and level the series, they still have to be honest with the state of their Test team.
To draw a series 2-2 against England would be a failure for an Indian side playing at home. There are fundamental changes that have to be made to the culture and mentality of the Test set up.
Dhoni will be remembered as the man who delivered the World Cup with one of cricket’s most iconic sixes. But his legacy as Test captain has to be to manage the transition of the team. He needs to produce a new Indian side playing with pure passion, commitment and energy. In other words, exactly how they play in Twenty20 and one-day cricket.
He has a great coach alongside him in Duncan Fletcher but he needs more power to shape the direction of Indian cricket. He must be tearing out what hair he has left when he sees the mentality of this Indian Test side.
There have been times during this series when they have simply looked uninterested. When they are on top they are arrogant and buzzing. But as soon as England took control in Mumbai, seven or eight of them went missing.
Selfish and weak players do not want to put in the hard work for the team. Test matches are won by doing all the boring stuff, the hard yards that can make a difference. In the field Indian batsmen wander around disengaged, and uninterested. But that is when you need to help the bowlers. Run around and make sure you are backing up so the bowlers don’t have to do too much work in the field in such hot conditions.
“Hunt in packs” was one of Duncan’s favourite catchphrases when he worked with England and you can bet he’ll be using it again with India, but he must be frustrated as it falls on deaf ears.
What will add to the frustration is that these players are so skillful. Duncan loves working with young cricketers which is why he will want to be around to manage the transition from the Tendulkar era. He will want to build a team around guys like Kohli or Ravindra Jadeja, a kid who bowls left-arm spin, can score hundreds and is good in the field.
He will love working with them in the nets because he knows they have immense talent. I’m sure they pick things up quickly so teaching them batting will be a real pleasure. For India to move forward in the Test arena they need to give someone from the outside, like Duncan, proper power. Don’t just make him coach and in charge of the first team.
Listen to what he has to say about all the players and how to move forward. If they don’t they will end up falling further behind and that is a worry for Test cricket.
He will also use Dhoni’s innings as an example to the rest. He arrived at the crease at 87 for four knowing that if he failed, India would lose the Test series 3-1. For him to play the way he did on a wicket he would not have enjoyed batting on is a tremendous performance. To control his emotions and play well, to drag the team back in the match under such immense pressure was down to pure mental strength.
I look at Dhoni and he reminds me of Kevin Pietersen. Both are at their best when they have copped some flak. In one-day cricket the buzz of the crowds and the atmosphere is enough to stoke his fire but in Test cricket Dhoni needs the pressure of having to perform to bring out his best. You don’t produce the innings he has played in one-day cricket without being a cool customer.
I know there has been pressure on him in India but he showed yesterday he cares about Test cricket and why he should stay on as captain. He all but survived an entire day of Test cricket made tough mainly because England have James Anderson bowling at his peak.
His skill levels are so high and his control so good now that it is fascinating watching him out-think the batsman. He also bowls with a cockiness that earns him wickets. With one withering look he tells a batsman he is not very good. One stare can kill the confidence of a player. It reminds me of Glen McGrath. It’s not arrogance on Jimmy’s part. In fact he probably doesn’t even know he is doing it. It is just a strut that great bowlers have. He is in a different league to when he played under me. He is now the perfect bowler. He has he perfect pace. He doesn’t take too much out of himself when he bowls which means he can stay on for long periods. I hope he plays for as long as he can because he can break all records.