On the eve of this Mumbai Test, MS Dhoni could not stop smiling. Ever since he was appointed captain four years ago, he has asked for pitches that afford sharp turn and bounce, surfaces that would aid India's spin strengths. Finally, at the Wankhede Stadium, he saw a pitch that appeared to meet those requirements.
Be careful what you wish for. As India slid towards defeat on the third evening, Dhoni was left to reflect on a contest in which two of his three spinners – India had not played three together since March 2006 – had been outplayed by the English duo of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.
Pragyan Ojha emerged with some credit after a five-wicket haul, but the two off-spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh, were desperately disappointing. Ashwin tried too many variations, while Harbhajan lacked the bite that once made him a fearsome proposition on home pitches.
Dhoni should have been aware of what can happen when a team puts too many eggs in one basket. At the Wanderers in 2006, Mickey Arthur, then South Africa's coach, asked for "pace and bounce". Sreesanth's outswing skittled South Africa for 84 in their first innings, and India won comfortably.
At Perth in 2008 Australia opted to unleash four fast bowlers on a surface expected to be quick. India's pace trio of RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma picked up 14 wickets as they won by 72 runs.
The consolation for India was that they were shown up by the genius of Kevin Pietersen, whose 233-ball 186 was as good as any innings ever played on Indian soil.
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