Matt Dunham/Associated Press
There are two things that put India on the back foot even before a single ball was bowled on the first day of the Southampton Test, followed by another one later, which cemented their position.
Dhoni lost an important toss on a more-or-less flat pitch and was asked to bowl by a gleeful Alastair Cook, who took the brave decision to bat first knowing that the ball could do a bit on the first day.
Dhoni said at the toss that it was 50-50 for him without revealing his cards, but you could say that he was happy losing the toss.
If that wasn't a sign of a defensive approach, the next one certainly was.
India's team sheet for the game revealed that they were playing an extra batsman, Rohit Sharma, instead of off-spinning, all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin, who would be certain to get some purchase off the pitch as the match wore on.
The only reason Dhoni would have felt this was the right way to go was because all-rounder Stuart Binny, who made way for Rohit, only bowled 20 overs over two Tests. If Dhoni didn't need a fifth bowler, he might as well play a sixth batsman, right?
It sounds logical, but it smacks of negativity.
The extra batsman isn't going to help you get 20 wickets, which is the most important ingredient in a Test win. With a line-up that already bats deep—the addition of Ashwin making it deeper—Dhoni and India had certainly missed a trick there.
To make matters worse, Dhoni went on to order his fourth bowler, left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, to bowl a negative middle-and-leg line all through the first innings.
Dhoni's tactics were bewildering to say the least and a complete reversal from what we saw at Lord's, where he was always one step ahead of England. Quite deservedly, the tactics failed miserably.
India need Dhoni to brush away the clouds of negativity surrounding him if they are to get back their lead in this series.
A positive and attacking approach may not guarantee a win, but it would certainly provide far better returns than what transpired at the Ageas Bowl.