Virat Kohli and Ambati Rayudu were the difference as the Indians eased to a 95-run victory over Middlesex at Lord’s ahead of the one-day series against England next week.
Captain for the day Kohli and Rayudu were the only bright sparks with the bat, making 71 and 72 respectively, although the loss of four wickets in as many overs to off-spinner Ollie Rayner saw the tourists slump to 230 all out after just 44.2 overs.
Any thoughts that the hosts could spring an upset were soon dashed as the Indians put on a fine bowling display, led by leg spinner Karn Sharma with three for 14, as Middlesex collapsed to 135 all out inside 40 overs.
After India lost three wickets for 52 runs, Kohli and Rayudu showed some class to steady the ship in a fourth-wicket stand worth 104.
That ended when Kohli fell to Ravi Patel in the 30th over and Rayudu eventually retired out with India on 211 for six, with Ravindra Jadeja dismissed in between. Rayner ended up with figures of 4-32,
Middlesex’s chase got off to a disastrous start as Nick Gubbins and captain Dawid Malan both fell inside four overs to leave them on 11 for two.
The Indians bowlers were in a miserly mood and they were happy to share the wickets out as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni and Ravi Ashwin all took one each to put Middlesex in trouble.
Sometimes external forces create a unique environment where the most unheralded individual rises to the occasion and etches his name in the history books.
And sometimes, despite the most epic of failures, the ringleader of the debacle can’t be brought to book due to the workings of similar forces.
One is forced to get into such a surreal world as simple logic fails to explain why Mahendra Singh Dhoni is still the captain of the Indian team, at least the Test side, and also why it looks like he will continue to be the leader.
The Indian Test team has gone beyond the realms of pure results. It has acquired a taste to surprise its followers with new and innovative ways of surrendering. The 3-1 series win by England took subjugation to a new level.
The bowlers lack bite, the batsmen have forgotten which side of the bat to hold and the fielding makes for tragic viewing.
Among all this chaos, the one man who should have had the rug pulled from under his feet has surprisingly landed on stable ground.
Dhoni is still India’s most experienced player and given how young the rest of the squad is, no one in the BCCI will be keen to take him to task. In fact, things are so bad India need Dhoni, no matter how poor his leadership is. Mind you, he batted well in England.
The next man in line for the captaincy role is Virat Kohli. The Delhi batsman came into the series as one of the best players among the new generation. One series and he got the wind knocked out of his sails.
Forget captaincy, Kohli will be fighting tooth and nail to hold on to his position at the top of the order. So that means there is no one to replace Dhoni as captain.
And thirdly, the 50 over World Cup will be held in Australia and New Zealand in February next year. With almost everything going wrong with the Indian team, the BCCI cannot afford to put their ‘biggest’ player under any more pressure than he already is. If Dhoni goes, it might all fall apart (whatever is left of the team, that is).
So despite the way things are, maintaining status quo seems the best option as far as the squad and its leader are concerned. The support staff structure has already seen quite an upheaval. So that should result in some fresh impetus. It’s not much but the Indians will clutch at any straw right now.
Former captain Sunil Gavaskar has already asked the Indian fans to be ready for another round of humiliation when the team travels to Australia and faces the likes of Mitchell Johnson and David Warner at the end of the year in a full tour ahead of their World Cup campaign.
And once that storm blows over, Indian cricket can pick up the pieces and do what needs to be done.
Till then, just go with the flow.
England bowler Stuart Broad is to undergo surgery on his right knee on September 4, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced.
The ECB revealed earlier this month that the 28-year-old paceman, who suffered a broken nose in England’s innings and 54- run fourth Test victory over India, was to have surgery to address a long-standing patella tendonitis problem and a date has now been confirmed for the procedure.
Broad has been troubled by the condition in his right knee for well over a year but has consistently put off going under the knife until now with a relatively quiet winter period coming up.
His rehabilitation time will be up to 14 weeks, but his participation in next year’s World Cup is not currently in doubt.
The ECB had already confirmed that Broad would miss the five one-day internationals against India, which get under way at Bristol on Monday, as a result of the surgery.