London: India's last word at the end of a Test series in which they made very few statements was MS Dhoni trying to be heard during his media conference in a committee room at The Oval. As the ICC Test mace was presented to England outside, the PA system played loud celebratory music - Jerusalem, Land of Hope & Glory and more such stirring stuff - while Dhoni answered his questions. In his line of vision was a television showing live pictures of England's players receiving medals and trophies, jumping up and down on stage, their lap of honour. It must have hurt. It better have. Dhoni, not given to many shows of emotion, unsurprisingly, looked neither crushed, nor dejected. He looked as he has always looked as India captain: quite together.
A short while before he spoke to the press, Dhoni had passed a man during the presentation who appeared to have taken the defeat personally: Tiger Pataudi, the first India captain to have won a Test series overseas. Four years ago, Pataudi sat on the steps outside the old dressing rooms at The Oval, with the Indian team, including Dhoni, gathered around him. In a photograph from that day, like everyone else, Pataudi is beaming, sharing the frame with a brand new shining trophy named after his father, for which India and England will forever tussle in Tests. The Pataudi trophy now belongs to England after a 4-0 rout of clinical execution. On the stage, with the game lost well before tea, Pataudi could not even force a manful smile as the Indians walked past him to collect their medals.
Unlike in Dhoni's previous four years as India captain which began, coincidentally, after that 2007 win, a now-famous clinical detachment has been unable to produce a turnaround from his men. India could not bat out the 30-odd more overs that would have saved the final Test and left them with a scrap of at least something from the series, rather than another thumping defeat.