Anand Vasu: Dhoni’s cunning plan outfoxes England

The Indian Angle

Motera Stadium

There exists a template to winning Test matches in India, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni has become the latest in a long line of captains who deploy this to best effect. On a pitch that only briefly had anything in it for the bowlers, late on the second day and spilling over to the third morning, Dhoni ensured that his bowlers used every trick in the book.

When the turn that was there to be had was married with enough bounce to allow edges to carry, India smothered England's batsmen with spin. Jonathan Trott could have scarcely felt more claustrophobic than when he walked out for his first bat of the series, four men crouching around him and the spinners barely pausing to catch their breath between deliveries. Even before he could settle into a routine, Trott had been and gone, having made the mistake of playing the game at the tempo dictated by the bowlers.

By the fourth day, with all pace having been beaten out of the track by the rollers and the harsh Ahmedabad sun, Dhoni switched tactics. The field spread slightly for the spinners, still staying within earshot, but charged with choking the run flow rather than snapping up catches. It was the fast bowlers who were asked to attack, and they did so not with three slips and a gully, but by homing on the stumps. Zaheer Khan, the master of reverse swinging the ball both ways in subcontinental conditions, was entrusted with the job of planting doubt in the minds of batsmen. Umesh Yadav, young, energetic and blessed with the natural strength that allows him to bend his back even in the most enervating conditions, pushed for wickets.

If the spinners had caused the implosion of the first innings, it was the quick bowlers who kept embarrassment at bay in the second dig. Every time a batsman threatened to link up with Alastair Cook, a wicket was prised out, and though the odd fortuitous decision was won, the quality of the interrogation was such that it was only a matter of time.

Winning matches on slow pitches requires patience and collective effort, and this was precisely why Dhoni did not put all his eggs in one basket and play three spinners, as several experts had suggested in the lead-up to the Test. Having read the pitch correctly, something England cannot claim to have done, Dhoni reaped the rewards, with contributions from everyone save Sachin Tendulkar, who has done enough to enjoy the odd day off.

Recent history tells us that India – and they're not alone in this – are poor travellers, but, at home, they appear as impregnable as ever. The fact that they produced such a strong performance on a surface that was not ideally suited to their plans will only inflate their resolve.

For some time now, Dhoni has pleaded for pitches that take the toss out of the equation, for surfaces that aid spinners from the first ball of the game. He has argued that playing on under-prepared pitches or ones that deteriorate suddenly on the fourth or fifth day does not amount to home advantage. All he's asked for, is a surface that keeps bowlers in the game consistently and tests batsmen properly, for he backs his own to come good at home. At some point in this series, Dhoni will get his wish, and then England will realise why India are kings at home.

Anand Vasu is managing editor of Wisden India

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam