" --IANS/RAY"
London, Aug 17 (IANS/RAY) When Gary Ballance converted a quarter of a chance into a magnificent catch at slip to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane on the third afternoon of the fifth and final cricket Test, that pretty much summed up a series in which England inflicted a third consecutive defeat on India, after trailing 0-1.

While it was to his favoured side -- he being a left-hander -- and the ball was low and dipping sharply towards the turf, Ballance stuck his hand out, timed his dive and positioned the palm perfectly.

Barring Matt Prior's drops in the early part of the series, England have floored few opportunities. Their catching in the slips has been particularly sound.

In contrast, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's wicket-keeping has been atrocious. He has frequently dropped catches, and missed stumpings and run outs. His work with the gloves has simply been shocking. He was never of international quality -- nothing has changed.

To compound the malaise, India's slip catching has been equally butter-fingered, if not worse. If you grant the number of lives the English batsmen have enjoyed, you immediately rule yourself out of a match. This was a major reason for India's ignominy.

If 2011 was an embarrassment bar Rahul Dravid's batting, 2014 in the last two Tests has been an incredible humiliation. Rarely has a side looked so incapable of handling swing and seam as the Indians have turned out to be at Old Trafford in the fourth Test and The Oval in the fifth. Conditions in the first innings at Old Trafford were difficult to start with but not as bad as to result in a 150-odd bundling out.

What has followed is even more baffling. In -- to a certain extent but not entirely -- challenging circumstances at The Oval, India were bowled out for less than 150, which on Sunday was succeeded by an abject surrender.

Can such players ever rise to the demands of Test cricket outside the sub-continent? Is the BCCI's obsession with less exacting levels of cricket good for the reputation of India? The government and the people of India must decide.

--IANS/RAY

ray/ss/dg


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