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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence