LONDON, August 23 – Defiant India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni insisted he “didn’t believe in surrendering” after his side suffered a 4-0 Test thrashing at the hands of England.
It was India’s heaviest Test campaign defeat in England since a 3-0 reverse in a three-match series back in 1974.
But what made this result all the more galling was that India came into the series as the world’s number one ranked Test side, a status they ceded to England following an innings and 242-run defeat in the third Test at Edgbaston.
This whitewash was the first major setback for Dhoni in an otherwise glorious captaincy that has seen him lead India to a string of Tests wins, the World Twenty20 and, this year, the 50-over World Cup on home soil.
India were handicapped in England by the loss through injury of several players, notably left-arm quick Zaheer Khan and spinner Harbhajan Singh.
They also ran into an England team at the top of their form, with only batsman Rahul Dravid and medium-pacer Praveen Kumar offering much in the way of sustained India resistance.
“We shouldn’t take anything away from the English side, who played very good cricket over the last four Tests,” Dhoni told reporters at The Oval.
“I don’t believe in surrendering. This job was given to me when I wasn’t expecting it — I am giving it my best shot.”
There were times in the series, especially in the field, where India looked like a side getting old together, which could prove a problem during their upcoming tour of Australia.
And wicketkeeper-batsman Dhoni said: “We need to start grooming young players and don’t shuffle them if they stutter.
“Look at Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhinav Mukund.
“They have talent but they need proper exposure and confidence.”
There were many observers inside and outside of India, who bemoaned the influence of the lucrative IPL on the team’s Test fortunes.
They pointed to how star opening batsman Virender Sehwag missed the start of the England series after delaying shoulder surgery having played in the IPL.
But Dhoni insisted: “This was not about the IPL. Let’s not put everything on the IPL.”
India’s defeat also turned the spotlight on coach Duncan Fletcher, the man who oversaw the start of England’s rise to the top.
“It can only get better for Fletcher,” Dhoni said. “The only place he can go from here is up. We didn’t perform to our potential and he must be feeling bad.”
India, and a capacity last day crowd at The Oval, were denied the privilege of seeing Sachin Tendulkar become the first batsman to score 100 international hundreds when the ‘Little Master’ was out for 91 on Monday.
It meant a wait that started when Tendulkar scored his 99th international century, against South Africa during the World Cup, in March went on.
However, Dhoni, set to lead India in the upcoming one-day series in England, said that golden moment would come.
“We are not worried, Sachin is also not worried.
“Hopefully, it will happen in the one-day series.”
India’s batting in the Test series was led by Dravid, who has spent the bulk of his career in Tendulkar’s shadow but is himself an undeniably great player.
‘The Wall’ made three hundreds in the series, including a superb 146 not out in India’s first innings 300 at The Oval and provided his team-mates with an ideal model of selflessness, application, concentration and skill.
“He loves England, he loves scoring here, he had to bat at different slots, opening and at number three, and that makes it more special,” an admiring Dhoni said of Dravid.
“When the team is not performing, the one who is performing feels more pressure because he knows he is expected to do well. He was truly brilliant.”