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Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher were emphatic in their irritation to suggestions that they should have decided otherwise, but the signal sent this weekend will interrogate India for a long time. There is, first, the fact that, with Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman at the crease, and with Dhoni, Virat Kohli and recently spunky tail-enders like Harbhajan Singh yet to bat, India were very safely placed and at a crunch could have played out the 15 overs for a draw. The signal emanating from Sunday's decision is not so much that India were safeguarding their lead in the series — it is that, if easy victory is not assured and if it does not significantly alter their takeaway, they will not make the effort to snap it up. One-Test margin or two-Test, same difference.
But that's still a comparatively minor quibble. Because what India did this weekend was not in the spirit of cricket, of sport. Giving a competition your best is an essential contract — and of necessity it involves risk-taking. To cite the fear of risking a series win is incriminating for any captain, let alone one who leads the top-ranked Test team as well as the current one-day world champions — and certainly let alone one whose team was well-placed to make a bid for the match. This is not about a win at any cost — it is about being true to the possibilities a sport offers. This time, India have showed themselves to be unequal to their rank as the number one Test side.
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