The rout is complete.
The English Lions, in their own den, knocked the Indians from their perch of the No. 1 Test team in the world.
The mighty have fallen—hard.
Team India nestle at No. 3 behind South Africa.
For one brief session on the fifth day of the last Test, Sachin Tendulkar and Amit Mishra showed what could have been. Had the Indian batsmen applied themselves similarly in the first three matches, the series result could have been quite different.This was the only batting session in the entire series that the Indians did not lose a wicket.
The English bowlers, for the first time in the series, showed signs of frustration. Graeme Swann kicked the turf, repeatedly.
It was also the only time in the series—thanks to the follow-on enforcement—that the English bowlers had to toil in the field for two days or more.
The tiredness was plain. Unfortunately, the Indian fightback did not last.
As before, the Indians lost far too many wickets prior to the second new ball. Team India lost three quick wickets in the six overs before the new ball arrived. The result from thereon was a foregone conclusion.
That has been the story throughout the series.
Test cricket batting is about seeing off the new ball and then capitalizing as the red cherry wears out.
Team India’s scores, when the second new ball was taken, read as follows:
First Test at Lords:
First Innings: 235/5 after 80.1 overs
Second Innings: 213/5 after 80.1 overs
Second Test at Birmingham:
First Innings: 258/4 after 80.1 overs
Second Innings: 150 runs in 44.3 overs
Third Test at Edgbaston:
First Innings:224/10 in 62.2 overs
Second Innings: 244 (55.3 ov)
Fourth Test at Kennington Oval:
First Innings: 253/7 after 80.1 overs
Second Innings: 266/6 after 80.1 overs
The inability to bat long and hard hurt the Indians.
Rahul Dravid achieved a personal milestone of 35 Test hundreds, going past India’s Sunil Gavaskar and West Indies’ Brian Lara. The moment was tinged with regret, the celebrations muted.
Of the 35 tons, just four came in losing causes, three, however, in this series. Dravid, now, has an idea of what Sachin Tendulkar feels when he scores tons by the dozen, yet the team fails him.
The joint man-of-the-series, with Stuart Board revealed:
“I will have mixed feelings. A sense of satisfaction at the way I’ve played. But when you get a 100 and don’t end up winning, it doesn’t feel nice. I haven’t experienced it too many times in my career.”
The premier off-spinner in the world, Graeme Swann, must have wondered when he would get his chance to get stuck in into the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up.
He grabbed his opportunity with both hands, bowling into the rough created by RP Singh’s footmarks. Is there a case that England played with 12 men and Team India ten?
Swann’s match figures read 9-208 in 69 overs.
MS Dhoni will be aware that every decision of his will be scrutinised minutely. The inclusion of RP Singh in the playing XI was moot.
It was the same during the World Cup.Piyush Chawla was chosen ahead of more deserving alternatives. Is the Indian skipper prone to favouritism?
Dhoni was then lauded—in the wake of Team India’s World Cup triumph—for knowing and speaking his mind. He’s now perceived as out of touch with ground realities.
BCCI and change
The BCCI may be the richest cricket board but its running is far from professional.
With Cricket Australia and the New Zealand cricket board revamping their selection set-up, will the abject surrender in English conditions force the Board to stop dragging its feet and become more cognizant of the changing times?
The Board should make sure that cricketers prove their fitness before they take the field in an international game. Warm-up games are a must when they are returning from injury.
The English and the Aussies would never have played Zaheer Khan or Virender Sehwag without making them go through the rigours of a full-fledged game.
Lower ranked teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh set higher standards of fitness (and fielding). India (and Pakistan) look pedestrian and listless in comparison.
The laments listed are hardly new. They persist. Is the BCCI listening?
The clamour to blood youngsters grows louder. The collective failure of the team, in batting and bowling departments, coupled with paucity in bench resources, has only strengthened the impression that the Board’s selection policies are short-sighted.
There is a school of thought (Sunil Gavaskar and Saurav Ganguly) that believes that youngsters should début at home (read sub-continent) in familiar conditions. I, for one, take the contrarian view.
Sachin Tendulkar (Pakistan), Rahul Dravid (England), Virender Sehwag (South Africa) and Saurav Ganguly (England) made their international Test debuts abroad in alien conditions. They weathered the storm without much damage to their career prospects.
Are the selectors setting up young cricketers for failure with ‘soft’ home debuts? Case in point, Suresh Raina.
Abhinav Mukund performed creditably in the Windies and England. Not every batsman scores tons on début.
Marvan Atapattu scored five ducks and one in his first six Test innings. Surely, Mukund has done better.
Next, the ODIs
Virender Sehwag and Ishant Sharma return home. Ajinkya Rahane and Varun Aaron take their place for the ODIs.
The less said about the “walking wounded” on this tour, the better.
“It’s an opportunity to take on the World Cup winners. There’s plenty to be excited about. We are very keen to finish the summer again being unbeaten.”
Promises made, promises kept. Should we expect less from this English side?
MS Dhoni, beware the English lions.
Note: Sachin Tendulkar misses his 100th international hundred, out for 91 in the second innings.
It is much easier to be critical than correct.