There will be plenty of worries on MS Dhoni's plate as India head into the fourth Test at Manchester following the heavy defeat at Southampton. In every department of the game, they were outplayed by England on the last occasion. We list out five specific areas where India must get their act right at Old Trafford.
Opening partnership: The opening combinationis definitely a massive worry for India. In all six innings, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay have failed to provide the team with a solid start. Vijay was superb in the first two Tests, but Dhawan has been a failure throughout out. Whether India retain the duo or bring in Gautam Gambhir and axe the other left-hander, the bottom line is that India somehow need to get off to a good start. This is a cushion India's middle-order hasn't enjoyed for nearly three years now.
Slip catching: Thisis another key area, which is definitely hurting India in a big manner. In all three Tests so far, India have dropped catches at will in the slip. They have tried various players from Kohli to Rahane to Jadeja, and all have failed. The absence of a settled slip cordon aided Alastair Cook's return to form, as Jadeja dropped him early in the last Test. Agreed, as Dhoni candidly admitted, India have limited slip-catching resources. Still, the frequency with which they are dropping slip catches is unacceptable, even at the most basic level of the game.
Runs from Pujara, Kohli: Justonehalf-century to show between two of India's most significant batsmen in the team. Not surprisingly, they are struggling with the bat. Pujara hasn't looked uncomfortable, but he has been guilty of being unable to convert starts -- very un-Pujara like. At times, he has been unlucky, at others occasions, he has thrown it away. India needs better from Pujara. Ditto with Kohli. Unlike Pujara, his technique has been exposed. Kohli certainly will be under a lot of pressure as the England bowlers will pepper him with deliveries outside the off-stump. Can Kohli find a way out of the mess? Old Trafford will tell us.
Overall bowling: Irrespective of who features in the bowling line up, India will to put up a much improved showing than the one they put up at Southampton. The bowling was absolutely shabby as England treated them with utter disdain. The pace bowlers just could not get their line and length right, and the absence of a proper fifth bowler hurt India very badly, especially with Ravindra Jadeja not looking the slightest bit threatening. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, if he plays, will have to be a lot more effective if India want to do well with the ball. With the likes of Mohammad Shami and the rest struggling, the bowling could pose a serious threat to India's chances in the series.
Moeen Ali's shouldn't be a threat: Whenthe series began, India had to worry specifically about Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. Moeen Ali was the weak link. He proved to be one in the first Test. At Southampton though, he was the bowling hero. How on earth India managed to give him six wickets is something worth pondering. India have been practicing the sweep shots in the net. Whatever their eventual strategy, they cannot allow Ali to dominate, like he did at the Ageas Bowl.
--By A Cricket Analyst