England v India Fifth Test: Duncan Fletcher’s reputation on the line as India look to Ishant Sharma for inspiration

 

the kia oval

India’s recent away Test record is abysmal. The momentous victory at Lord’s less than a month ago, which seemed to have broken the cycle of defeat and mediocrity, has been followed by a return to the familiar pattern.

Whether it affects the standing of the players and their leaders, the captain,  M S Dhoni, and the coach, Duncan Fletcher, is doubtful. Back home one-day cricket, especially Twenty20, is king, and while lip service is paid to the importance and standing of Tests, it seems nothing more than that.

Unless there is another dramatic reversal at The Kia Oval in the next five days, Fletcher’s reputation as one of the world’s shrewdest and smartest batting coaches is bound to suffer. By and large, India’s top order have simply not performed to the required standard, bereft both of method and application.

This may not be entirely Fletcher’s fault, dealing as he is with players who are used to limited-overs cricket and completely unaccustomed to Test series of five matches. But whatever he is telling them about how to approach England bowlers on English pitches, something of which he has deep experience, is not working.

Fletcher has been coach in more Test matches than anybody. There were 96 with England before he left following their 5-0 defeat in the 2006-07 Ashes series. Appointed by India in April 2011, he has coached them in a further 34 Tests.

Of those, 19 have been away from home. India have won only two and lost 12, returning to the sort of form on tour which dogged them until Sourav Ganguly transformed them in the five years from 2000. Under Ganguly they won 11 of 28 away Tests, the like of which has not been known before or since.

Dhoni was as phlegmatic as ever today. He had taken a day off on Wednesday, missing practice, which seemed odd with his side in apparent disarray. “It was personal,” he said. “That’s why it was a day off. I felt like taking a day off and I took one.”

Despite the form of their batsmen, India will continue with their policy of five bowlers. It is possible that Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin will make way for Stuart Binny’s medium pace, though it is difficult to see that much will be gained.

What may lift the tourists’ spirits is the return of Ishant Sharma, whose bumper barrage at Lord’s turned the match in his team’s favour. At his most potent, Sharma is fast and menacing, though those qualities have often been diminished by a lack of direction.

He is likely to replace the toiling, smiling Pankaj Singh, whose wait of 416 balls for his first Test wicket was the second longest in history and entranced the cricket public. Having finished the Manchester Test with two wickets, Pankaj is probably about to find there is no room for sentimentality in sport.

The batting order will probably be unchanged. Any temptation to promote Cheteshwar Pujara to open is likely to be resisted since he has no form to speak of. India have gone 19 innings without their openers mustering 50 together.

Part of the trouble is the incessant schedule. India, strangers to long series, also have a frantic programme. There is little time between matches and series to work on changes to their technique. Dhoni lamented the lack of an off season, of a time for recuperation when amendments can be made, but he knows nothing will be changing.

In Manchester last week, India were eight for 4 in their first innings and lost their last nine wickets in 22 overs in the second. Improvement on that is vital but may not necessarily be sufficient unless Fletcher still has a guru’s trick or two to play.

The Oval: Match details

Probable teams

England A N Cook (capt), S D Robson, G S Ballance, I R Bell, J E Root, M M Ali, J C Buttler (wk), C R Woakes, C J Jordan, S C J Broad, J M Anderson.

India M S Dhoni (capt; wk), M Vijay, G Gambhir, C A Pujara, V Kohli, A M Rahane, R Ashwin, S T R Binny, B Kumar, V R Aaron, I Sharma.

Umpires K Dharmasena (SL) & P Reiffel (Aus)

The Oval pitch report Looked to have a tinge of green, but that can change. It is expected to be a batting strip without nullifying bowlers and will not have quite the pace and carry of the highly praised Manchester pitch.

TV Sky Sports 2, 10am-7pm. Highlights: Channel 5, 7-8pm.

Weather Dry and overcast, with intermittent sunshine. Maximum temperature: 21C.

Series details (Eng lead 2-1)

First Test (Trent Bridge) Match drawn

Second Test (Lord’s) India won by 95 runs

Third Test (Ageas Bowl) England won by 266 runs

Fourth Test (Old Trafford) England won by inn & 54 runs

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album