Cook lays down gauntlet to batsmen
Alastair Cook has demanded England’s one-day international batting line-up deliver consistently as the sum of its parts suggests it should.
Cook’s side began the five-game series with India by defending an impressive 325 for four at Rajkot, but in the last two games have failed to make 160 during heavy defeats.
Today they went down by seven wickets in Ranchi, having been dismissed for 155 inside 43 overs. With more than 21 overs remaining, Virat Kohli’s unbeaten 77 put the hosts 2-1 up with two to play.
Although reliable number three Jonathan Trott has been rested for this rubber, Cook knows the tourists have enough batting quality to regularly challenge India.
“We didn’t get enough runs. It is a concern, of course,” admitted the England captain.
“It is frustrating when you don’t play to your potential as a batting unit and we need to do that if we are to have a chance of winning out here. When you don’t you get punished for it.
“We’ve got to be clear and start producing the goods out in the middle and not just talk about it.
“We’ve got some seriously quality players in our dressing room who can, on their day, win games for England and if we want to win we need to stand up as batsmen and deliver.”
The tourists were mainly victims of soft dismissals, a fact typified by Ravindra Jadeja - who rarely turned the ball with his slow left-armers - taking 3-19.
“We didn’t actually get out to many attacking shots. We actually got out to more defensive shots so that is obviously a concern. It’s frustrating,” Cook said.
“We’ve certainly got potential to do well out here. We’re just not quite delivering out there in the middle at the moment. We did in the first game but in the last two games we’ve played well below our potential and we’ve been punished quite hard for that.”
Defending such a low total, Steven Finn soon broke through but India’s second wicket did not fall until the 18th over by when they had scored 78.
“You need a bit of a freak result on that wicket,” added Cook, who lost the toss. “It probably did skid on slightly nicer (in the) second innings. We knew that would happen.
“But you need early wickets to make the inroads. I had to have the field up to be attacking, so that’s probably why the run-rate’s probably a little bit higher.”
England now need victory in the last two matches to take the series, which continues on Wednesday at Mohali.
“We’re still in it. We’re going to have to regroup; we’re going to have to look deep in our dressing room and produce a better performance in Mohali,” Cook concluded.
While it was a day to forget for Cook, it was utterly memorable for opposition skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
With India coasting to victory, Dhoni was in danger of not batting in the first international his home city had hosted. However, he responded to Suresh Raina’s suggestion of swapping places in the batting order and went in to pull Finn for the winning four.
“I was just there sitting next to Raina, who was supposed to go in next, and he said to me ‘why don’t you go in?’, Dhoni revealed.
“Usually it is his slot but I said ‘okay, I’ll give it a go’. It didn’t look like a wicket would fall but I thought ‘let me pad up and see’. Then fortunately - or unfortunately - Yuvraj got out.”
Dhoni, who has many high points to look back on - not least hitting the winning six in India’s World Cup triumph, received a resounding ovation as he walked to the JSCA International Stadium wicket.
Asked if it was his finest moment in cricket, he replied: “There are quite a few, it is difficult to remember.
“When you are so much in the present you always think this is the perfect moment, the one you have enjoyed the most.”
Speaking of his home ground, he added: “I’ve played a lot of cricket here. It’s one of the best facilities...a fabulous stadium and fans who were excited about this game. Everything went well. It was a perfect script.”
India confirmed after the match that they will retain an unchanged squad for the last two games of the series. That means no recall for Virender Sehwag, whose replacement Ajinkya Rahane was vulnerable after successive failures.