Both captains, MS Dhoni and Alastair Cook, expected dew to be a big factor in the game at Ranchi. As it happened, the match was over before 6 pm, so we won’t know what effect it might have had. But if the previous evening’s dew prompted Dhoni to bowl first on winning the toss, it turned out to be fortuitous.
There was a bit of moisture in the wicket for the seamers to exploit, and it might have been tricky for the vulnerable Indian top order. Instead, it was the English who first got bogged down, and then lost wickets to rash shots. After that, the spinners got enough turn to finish off the job. Well, Jadeja got three wickets with balls that went straight on with the arm, but that’s because he got a few others to turn appreciably.
There was still a bit of help for the seamers when the Indians came out to bat, but no pressure to score quick runs with just 156 to get on a wicket where the ball was coming on to the bat nicely. Once Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli saw through the opening spells of Steve Finn and Jade Dernbach, it was all over even before the dew could come into it. Or actually the dew played a part without having to make an appearance because the expectation of it made Dhoni bowl first. The initial help for the seamers was a bonus, but that’s what proved decisive because England were three down and under pressure by the time the spinners came on.
To give Dhoni his due, however, the Indian captain has to be commended for backing Ravindra Jadeja, who is turning out to be India’s best bowler in these conditions. It remains to be seen how he will do overseas, but on Indian pitches with some turn, his accuracy and the pace at which he bowls makes him a winner.
Dhoni’s handling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar too has been commendable, letting him have his full quota with the new ball which he swings both ways. In the long run, however, Kumar has to develop a good slower ball to be able to make a contribution later in the innings too.
And finally, Dhoni has kept faith with the frustrating Ishant Sharma, who has the height to get the ball to wobble off an awkward length, but lacks the bull-headedness to persist with a line and length. Every now and then, he will feed juicy hit-me balls by trying to do something different when it is not needed. But Dhoni knows how much of a difference Sharma can make when we travel to South Africa later this year, if he regains even a quarter of the form he displayed on his first overseas tour to Australia.
It’s in the handling of the bowlers that a captain comes into the picture the most, and Dhoni has got a lot of things right in the last two games. The batting is still a worry though. Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh again got out after getting starts, but they have done just enough to keep their places. So Cheteshwar Pujara will have to wait a little longer before he gets the captain’s nod.