After an intense discussion with Ravi Shastri on the alignment of his front shoulder while batting, Shikhar Dhawan wanted to face a few throwdowns to implement the suggestions. But that part of the nets was about to be occupied by the newly arrived back-up opener, Murali Vijay.
“Are you doing anything Monk?” Dhawan inquired from behind, then without waiting for a reply, asked: “Would you mind if I practice a bit?” Vijay agreed. He gave up his turn to allow Dhawan bat a bit more.
That was a nice exhibition of camaraderie between two Team India players. In fact, competitors. For as things stand, Vijay is one of the batsmen in line to replace Dhawan up the order should the left-hander from Delhi continue to fail.
The chief reason why Dhawan could retain his spot for the fourth ODI in Birmingham on Tuesday is because India may prefer to retain the winning combination from the previous game, especially given the prospect of sealing their first bilateral ODI series triumph on these shores in 24 years. Otherwise, scores of 11 and 16, on the back of a Test series where he averaged 20, would have meant a prompt boot from the playing XI.
It’s a complete turnaround for a batsman who was adjudged player of the Champions Trophy at this very ground last summer, having scored 363 runs at over 90 per match, including two centuries.
Dhawan is going through what is referred to as second-season blues in cricket, even though it’s technically not his second year on the world stage. However, it’s the year that follows his breakout season. In his modes of dismissal this summer, he has been, by turns, tentative and reckless against the away going ball — either edging it behind the wicket or hammering it straight to point. Consequently, the only thing looking up for him are the two ends of his moustache.
As a corrective measure on Monday, Shastri and Dhawan worked out on the latter’s away-going-ball-cum-over-aggression problem.
The drill was to figure out which ball to hit and which one to leave as it was hurled at him from an angle. The batsman got it right a few times and edged or mishit on several other occasions.
“Jab confidence aayega, to sab theek ho jaayega (When the confidence returns, everything will become all right),” remarked Shastri and told Dhawan to carry on.
As such, the ball is unlikely to move much here at Edgbaston. It’s expected to spin, though. In the Champions Trophy final versus England here last year, India’s spinners, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, played a crucial role in the five-run win, just as they have in the ongoing ODI series so far with 10 wickets between them.
Also, during the last ODI on this ground in June, Sri Lanka’s spinners set up what was a series-winning victory.
Hosts not giving up hope
Now 2-0 down in the current series and down by two championship points — so to speak — England coach Peter Moores, however, was of the opinion that the hosts could still save the series.
“I still think we can save the series. We’ve had two disappointing games and we haven’t played well enough in both games, we know that, so it’s a chance again to come back and play better.
In two or three different areas of the game we haven’t really played as well as we wanted to,” Moores said in a pre-match conference.
Those areas are spin and the middle overs, in tandem. “The key for the lads is to identify the areas where they want to get better and how they are going to go about it and then work very hard to get there.
We’ve got some good players of spin, like (Ian) Bell, (Alastair) Cook, (Eoin) Morgan, but we have to deliver in a one-day game and that, to me, is partly about skill and partly a mindset.”
As things stand, India will have everything conspiring with them against England: the momentum, the pitch, an abject England and the crowd. Oh yes, the crowd.
If Nottingham seemed like Nagpur in the last match, Birmingham, which has a distinctly South Asian feel to it with mosque minarets and Nishan Sahibs vying with Gothic church spires in most neighborhoods, will surely transform into Bathinda come Tuesday.
Safely to say then that James Anderson, who was thoroughly booed on Sunday, will again have a tough time on Tuesday. And possibly England, too.