Posts Tagged ‘Fourth Test’


Chandrasekhar Jayarama Krishnan

Head of Cricket, The CouchExpert

22 August 2011

 

There is a growing sense that our best days as a Test Cricket Superpower are behind us, and that England, currently is in the driver’s seat to ride on this throne for the foreseeable future. A sense of anguish seems to dominate any conversation that runs around India’s future in Test Cricket – the consequence of a whitewash whose coffin was nailed at The Oval.

There is, of course, some truth to this concern. Even Real Madrid’s 5-0 loss to Barcelona last December wouldn’t have had enough quantity of remorse to outweigh that suffered by the Indians lately. If at all anything was common, it was that both the Los Galacticos and Indians succumbed to the presence of sheer class amongst their opponents, coupled with bad errors of judgment intrinsically.

England dominated the series with the aura of a historical superpower that has never been colonized. The script of the fourth test could’ve well been written before the first ball was bowled at the Kia Oval, but what was heartening to see from the Indians, for a change, was resistance of some sort. Dravid’s defiance had thrown seeds of hope in to the Indian dressing room, two of which managed to last through a session without having its wicket thrown away.

The media-frenzy of a Tendulkar milestone that dominated headlines preceding this series is likely to continue until it is reached

Tendulkar’s near-repeat of his World Cup Semi Final innings against Pakistan, one filled with numerous chances that the opposition failed to grasp hold of, and Mishra’s battling (and splendid) innings – one that had to have had the other ‘batsmen’ hang their heads in shame- saw India through their first session without losing a wicket. Mishra’s guts, and temperament, are now widely endorsed with a large section of the Indian public willing to forgive him for lack of ideas while bowling – only to tout him to contention for the number six slot as a batsman.

That it had to end this way for the Indians was a certainty. A curious selection towards the end of the series had depicted a thought, or even a belief, that the Indians were as adept in conference rooms, where selections were made, as their players had been on the green wickets of England. Indeed, the uncontrolled fall of morale, confidence and the exposure of weaknesses and inability overshadowed all imaginable pretenses – not least helped by the fall of seven wickets for a paltry twenty odd runs to bring this series to a close.

Some of India’s most exciting one-day players were victims of the English soil’s greenish vengeance. Less gullible but no less feeble were the bowlers who ran out of ideas at the rate at which gas-guzzling SUVs drink fuel. Predictable responses to events of such drastic inconvenience hovered around packed calendars and lack of preparation – but lack of application, barring Rahul Dravid, stood out among the key culprits. England played brilliantly well, no doubt, but was made to look even better by the hapless Indians at various instances during this series.

England’s progressive rise in performance of their players, with Swann completing the cycle with his dominant performance in the second innings of the final test, picking up six, pretty much summarizes their state of confidence. A few of the statistics from the recent past – backed by innings victories and large integers – plant a scary proposition to the rest of the world: they’re right on top, and there seems to be no roads that descend anywhere near the British Isles.

It may now appear ironic that Man of the Series Stuart Broad was a doubtful starter at Lords, owing to his unimpressive form leading up to the series

Broad’s consistent lengths throughout the series, ones that would have made even the best of the long-jumpers proud, and high scoring cameos with the bat earned him the Man of the Series award, one for which there existed many a contestant from the English dressing room. Dravid, from the other dressing room, was parsecs ahead of any other Indian in terms of achievements this series. That, in itself, is a reflection of how the series eventually panned out.

Most of the Indian players, subsequently, will have to bite the bullets once the post-mortem verdicts are out; not that most of these facts aren’t known anyway. Some of their ‘shorter-format’ skill sets have probed in and out like Somalian pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Apart from the self-inflicting damage that it has caused to most of them, more than anything else, it has left a billion sullen faces staring at this plight back home.

On the contrary, the Englishmen have found themselves a bed of roses to recline on – their tale to reach the top of the rankings, followed by a whitewash of the previously reigning champions, couldn’t have had a better script in the making. The quality of their quests henceforth will decide whether they build their fortresses across the globe in sand or stone. They have had a remarkable time stamping their intentions, but the real game of governing unconquered territories is about to begin this winter.


Chandrasekhar Jayarama Krishnan

Head of Cricket, The CouchExpert

17 August 2011

 

Let us be honest with ourselves here: any attempt to get the competitive mood a little testier than it was prior to the Edgbaston-induced euphoria might be challenging. The margin of dominance might seem to have alleviated the competitive juices that would have existed before statistics played devil’s advocate – but far from all that, England will target a whitewash. With their openers back in form, the solitary glitch of the series up and until Birmingham was resolved in style.

As painful as Cook’s drab innings was, it is hard to argue that he might have ended up playing the role that was expected of him. For the spectator though, the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility seemed to govern his innings that day when, at one point of time, the value of every additional run scored decreased, at least virtually, as his individual score piled on.

Nevertheless, England’s neoclassical revival couldn’t have hoped for anything more concrete. The nation’s persistent expectations were finally in congruence with their team’s performances in the middle. And the icing on the cake was to add to the former World Number One’s bundle of misery by ostensibly portraying the visitors’ woes as voluminous and grave as unpaid taxes in India.

Tremlett will definitely miss out due to injury, while Anderson's situation isn't entirely clear yet

The combination of a prospective whitewash and a battered Indian morale could well tempt Flower & co. from fielding their best XI at the Oval. Graham Onions is likely to return if the suspected injury of Anderson stops him from taking any part on Thursday. Tremlett isn’t fit yet, therefore Bresnan, riding on that wonderful form of his, will look to stay in phase with the momentum.

Bopara’s return placed him in the footnote of a scorecard with monumental numbers, an image that would only appear more blurred when he reads newspapers that highlight James Taylor’s great run of late. The Leicestershire wonder kid scored yet another hundred against the visiting Sri Lankan – A team, and is piling runs at the rate at which Cook was doing over the winter.

Bopara, in all likelihood, will be given another run at the Oval to cash in on runs against an attack that seems far from convincing. Some might argue that it would appear a bit premature for Taylor to be given a go now, but keeping a young in-form batsman waiting in the wings for too long has its own set of unpleasant consequences – one which even Ravi Bopara experienced at an earlier stage of his career.

And to imagine the prospect of throwing young Taylor in to a steaming cauldron somewhere within the subcontinent in conditions unfamiliar to him may not be the ideal start to envision. Flower is probably already thinking of this – the thought being hidden somewhere in his mind amidst a collage of numbers that read 4 and 0.

While it is easy to overstate this need, substantive as it might appear, the bigger picture of the Oval being a battlefield that will house the war between a bruised ego and new-found arrogance must not be forgotten. England cannot, and will not, look to hand India the advantage with a lackluster approach knowing that a 4-0 drubbing would lead the Indian media to frantically dig the graves of culprits before the start of the ODI series. This would, consequently, hand England another advantage going ahead.

Having climbed to the top with promising signs of a new era and a mentally tougher unit, the ghosts of England’s past have vanished for good. Hyperbolic as this statement might allegedly sound, only a strong performance – redolent of the visitors’ era under Gary Kirsten – might tilt the scales otherwise.