India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni urged his side to absorb the lessons of their crushing innings and 54-run defeat in the fourth Test against England at Old Trafford in time for next week’s finale at The Oval.
This loss, which came inside three days, left India 2-1 down in the five-match campaign.
In order to win in south London and square the series at 2-2, India will have to bat vastly better than they did in Manchester.
India’s pace attack, including swing specialist Bhuvneshwar Kunmar, recalled fast bowler Varun Aaron and the persevering Pankaj Singh, did trouble England’s top order on a good cricket wicket to hold the hosts to 367 in their only innings.
Unfortunately for India, they never truly recovered from a stunning collapse at the start of the match that left them eight for four after Dhoni had elected to bat after winning the toss.
The skipper’s 71 did take India to 152 all out.
But at least that collapse was caused by England’s experienced new-ball duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
However, Broad — named man-of-the-match for his first innings return of six for 25 — played no part in India’s second innings slump.
While the tourists lost nine wickets after tea on Saturday’s third day in being dismissed for 161 in just 43 overs, Broad was off the field with a broken nose suffered when he missed an intended hook off an Aaron bouncer. “The first hour of this Test match was crucial,” said Dhoni.
“We all know it has slightly more bounce, this wicket. But after that it got much better to bat on and there was something for the fast bowlers.”
“Once you see off the first 20-25 overs, when the ball is hard and new, it gets relatively better for the batsmen to bat.”
“You just have to pull the bowler towards you rather than going outside off and looking for the big shot,” added Dhoni in a reference to the way in which several India batsmen were dismissed as all talk of rain, which had cut short Friday’s second day, forcing a draw was rendered irrelevant.
“If you can look to push them to bowl to you actually you can control the swing much better and you can play your strokes.”
“That is something to an extent we lacked. Hopefully we will learn from it out and move into the next one which I feel will be very important to us,” added Dhoni, whose side have now won just one of their last 18 Tests on foreign soil.
India’s Virat Kohli arrived in England with a reputation as one of the world’s most promising young batsmen, with a Test average of nearly 47.
But the 25-year-old has struggled to make any sort of impact in this series with 108 runs in eight innings at an average of 13.50 and a meagre top score of 39.
However, Dhoni said working with India coach Duncan Fletcher, the former England boss, who is renowned for improving young batsmen, would see Kohli, caught in the slips off Anderson for just seven on Saturday, back in the runs again.
“He (Fletcher) has been helping Virat a lot and not only Virat, he has also been helping other batsmen,” said Dhoni.
“It is a lean period Virat has to go through. It is bound to happen at sometime, if not now then six months down the line.”
“He had a lovely two to three years scoring runs everywhere in all formats. So it’s something he has to go through and it will only make him a better cricketer.”