By Ashis Ray, IANS
London : India came perilously close to losing the first test here at Lord's Monday.
For once the notorious English weather, otherwise India's bugbear, came to their rescue. As a result, they now live to fight another day.
Yet, they have plenty of preparation to undertake before the second Test at Trent Bridge starting Friday.
As the visitors drove up the M1 motorway in their comfortable coach to Nottingham, in the East Midlands of England, Tuesday, the positives they carried with them from the opening encounter were the promise of Rudra Pratap Singh, who made batsmen hurry and also troubled them with movement from around the wicket – a new arrow to his bow – and the ability of a slower Zaheer Khan to prise out batsmen with clever variations.
But even these two successes were tempered by their inconsistency between spells. An accurate stint would invariably be succeeded by a wayward one, thus providing relief to the opposing batsmen, which should never be extended at the highest level of the game.
S. Sreesanth's performance also rather offset the showing of the other two. This Kerala lad had developed marvellously under Greg Chappell. Now, he runs in wildly, seemingly with little purpose, attempting it would appear to unsettle batsmen with velocity.
He was quick, but not quick enough and not a real bother as he sprayed deliveries all over the place. But he shouldn't be written off yet.
With more practice he may achieve a better line and length at which point he could be a handful.
Unexpectedly, India's big headache has turned out to be their batting. It wasn't a bad sign that both openers got half centuries, albeit not in the same innings.
But for the upper middle order to produce not even this, let alone a hundred – which is what is essential to put pressure on the opposition – is the truly worrying aspect.
A complete batsman is one who can conquer the moving ball.
In this respect, the four big names of Indian cricket – Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman – failed to live up to their reputations.
Admittedly, the swing in evidence in India's first innings was extraordinary, but conditions were certainly more conducive in the second outing, when even Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a man of limited technique, battled it out.
Only Dravid can claim that he was a victim of a questionable umpiring decision.
While the four one-day internationals in Belfast were technically upsetting for the Test series, the Indians have had a month to get acclimatised to British conditions, with net sessions and warm-up games – a luxury few teams enjoy these days.
There isn't much the visitors can do, other than work on the potential of the same players and hope that they deliver.
While it's unfortunate that Yuvraj Singh will have to continue warming the bench, Dhoni's heroic match-saving effort has cemented his place for a while.
There is no question of replacing any of the faster bowlers with either Ishant Sharma or Ranadeb Bose immediately. The two will get a chance to press their cases in a three-day fixture before the third Test against Sri Lanka "A".
The water table at Trent Bridge is also likely to be as high at Lord's, thus perhaps ruling out the off-spin option of Ramesh Powar as well.
Drier and warmer weather during the next Test could see a blossoming of the Indian batting.
This might also provide greater purchase to Anil Kumble's wrist spin. But one department that looks beyond improvement in the foreseeable future is the ground fielding.