India lose despite Dhoni's bad sportsmanship

'Captain cool' did not take back Bairstow appeal

Emerging from an emphatic victory against the visiting English team in the first Test, one would imagine India captain M S Dhoni to be his calm, confident self.

Somehow, however, he seems to have lost his balance, with England overtaking India’s not-so-substantial first innings total of 327 with ease.

First, the ‘always-cool-as-a-cucumber’ captain lost his bearings and missed what would have been a regulation run-out of the centurion Kevin Pietersen.

Of course, the pounding that Pietersen and skipper Alastair Cook doled out to Indian spinners over the past two days – along with some shoddy fielding on the part of the Indian camp this morning – hasn’t helped matters.

To make matters worse, Dhoni's poor form with the bat has left him look stupid for insisting on spin-friendly pitches for this Test series. He has scored a princely 40 in four innings in the two Test matches so far: 5, DNB, 29 and 6, in that order.

In fact, apart from the in-form Cheteshwar Pujara (206 and 41 not out in first Test and 135 in the first innings of the second Test), none of the other batsmen have looked comfortable at the crease.

Of course Virender Sehwag scrored a characteristic 117 in the first innings of the first Test but he too fell cheaply (25) in the second innings and could manage only 30 in the first innings of the second Test and a mere 9 in the second innings.

Even Pujara's dream-run seems to have ended, with the only in-form Indian batsman departing for just 6 runs off 5 balls, falling cheaply to Graeme Swann as Jonny Bairstow took an amazing two-handed catch at short leg after Pujara edged one.

While Pujara has the past three innings to save his grace, the same cannot be said about some of our stalwarts.

India is now teetering at the brink of a massive defeat, having ended the day at a rather shameful 117 for 7, with none but Gautam Gambir (53 not out) and R. Ashwin (11) making it to doube-figures. The rest of Indian team's scorecard reads like a telephone number: 9-6-8-7-8-6-1.

Hiding behind these numbers are some of India's all-time great players, including Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and, of course, Mahinder Singh Dhoni himself.

The brough-back-from-slumber Monty Panesar sliced through the great Indian batting line-up like what a hot knife does to butter, gathering a five-wicket haul for 129 runs in 47 overs in the first innings, and 5 for 61 in 16 overs in the second innings so far - much like what Pragyan Ojha did for the home side in the first Test.

The visitors, it seems, are quick learners and made amends by including Panesar and adapting their batting style. They've taken a first innings lead of 86 runs - not be sneezed at considering India managed just 327 in the first innings on a turning track that will be turning much more now, having been played on for three days.

The decision to open secnd innings bowling with Panesar's spin has also paid off with Viru the Nawab of Najafgarh falling once again in this Test to the Montster. The 'python', another of Panesar's nicknames, also claimed the scalps of Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni and R. Ashwin, taking his wickets tally from the second Test to 10 already.

Nevertheless, nothing justifies why Dhoni, a player who has always been one in contention for the fair play series awards when there are any, did not take the appeal back for the dismissal of Jonny Bairstow.

It went off like this: Bairstow, who was batting at 9, lunged hard at one of Pragyan Ojha’s deliveries that was leaving him, managing to get a thick leading edge. What appeared a fumble followed by a sharp catch by Gautam Gambhir at silly point was, later, shown by TV cameras as coming off Gambhir’s helmet grill.

According to rules, that is Not Out. But since the on-field umpires had already given out, and lunch was taken right after that, it was left to Dhoni’s sportsmanship to take the call. It appears the umpires asked Dhoni whether he would like to withdraw the appeal and recall Bairstow (since the new batsman was yet to set foot on the ground), but Dhoni, alas, refused.

The Test is in any case a lost cause, with India staring at defeat in the next couple of sessions. Barring a rain interruption, things will most likely be wrapped up tomorrow itself.

Whatever the result of this Test, cricket died a little today, with one of its most ‘fair’ captains deciding to ditch sportsmanship for brinkmanship.

Sad, Dhoni. Hope you don’t make a habit of it.

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