From satire to slapstick punch-lines, vague analogies and subtle barbs, there’s a lot on offer at a Mahendra Singh Dhoni press conference. History lessons though are rarely a feature of the Dhoni routine. But not for the first time, the irrepressible Indian captain had a surprise in store on Saturday.
He accurately apprised everyone present that the last time India played a five-Test series in England was in 1959. It’s taken 55 years for England to invite the Indians back for a full-fledged Test tussle.
As India return to England for a path-breaking tour, being routed is a feeling that Dhoni unfortunately has become accustomed to. It’s not just the two 4-0 thrashings of 2011 that remain fresh, India have also not won a Test outside the subcontinent since overcoming West Indies at Jamaica back in June of that year.
“When you go through tough times, you forget the stats and numbers. In 2011, those two series there were plenty of things going around. I can still recall in England in 2011, we had close to eight or nine injuries. It started with the very first day,” Dhoni said on the eve of the team’s departure to England.
He was quick to add that he would prefer to focus on the immediate past, of his present team’s impressive showings in South Africa and New Zealand despite the lack of victories on both tours.
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“We were in situations where we could have won the games. It happened both in South Africa and New Zealand. We were not really able to close the games but still it was a good effort by the bowlers. That gives us the confidence that we can win games,” he said referring to the games at Johannesburg and Wellington, where the visitors dominated play for most periods and came narrowly close to winning.
By leaving almost three weeks before their first Test at Nottingham, Indians are also set to have an unprecedented period of preparation to get used to the conditions in lieu of their lengthy and packed schedule.
While Gautam Gambhir, who is the reserve opener, has played three Tests to his credit on English soil, Dhoni will start the tour as the batsman with the most experience on English soil. And he revealed his plans about bettering his recent run of low scores away from the subcontinent in non-coloured clothing.
“I’ve realized that when I play aggressive, I am a lot better than when I try to play like a proper batsman. I think I should go for my shots, regardless of whether it’s the first over or the last over,” he explained.
Coach Duncan Fletcher was his pragmatic self, and insisted that despite the loss of Kevin Pietersen, England remained a tough unit. Even if they were also a team in a rebuilding stage, like India. He should know. After all it was the unflappable Zimbabwean, who had resurrected England cricket and its fortunes back at the turn of the century.
Eventually, Dhoni did get the final word as always, underplaying the team’s expectations, insisting that the recent trend of results had been all about teams desperate to win at home, and trying their best to overcome the challenges abroad, showing that his grasp over recent history wasn’t all that bad.