Everyday is like Sunday
Or so it seemed on the Nagpur track where England ground out the dourest of draws to secure their first test series win in India since 1984/85. Even Trott and Bell’s partnership over the last day and a bit was achieved at a canter; thus eliminating any possibility of a dramatic, backs-against-the-wall ‘Once more unto the breach’ masterpiece. The pitch was awful and hardly bounced. The draw was inevitable, as was the result of the series two days into the Kolkata test match. India simply had nothing to offer. Yes, England were magnificent: out-batting, out-spinning and out-fielding their counterparts. Their dominance was unquestionable, my suggestion for a composite team would reflect this:
Alastair Cook (Capt.), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Cheteshwar Pujara, Joe Root, Matt Prior (Wkt.), Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Monty Panesar.
It could be argued perhaps that either of the Indian openers might replace Compton, but his fielding was magnetic and he consistently offered good support to Cook, I’d be loath to split the two up (unless Root were to be promoted). Pujara would be batting out of position, though at least he wouldn’t be the single thread holding together the line-up and Panesar edges out Ojha as I believe had he rightfully been selected for the first test, he’d have been the highest wicket taker on either side.
James Anderson was superb on unhelpful, unresponsive decks. He took three times the wickets of the next closest quick; it’s sometimes forgotten that one of his first high class bowling performances in test matches took place in Mumbai 2006, as he took 4 for 40 to give England a comprehensive lead on their way to what was the solitary English test victory (until the last month) on Indian soil in over a quarter of a century.
If James Anderson was efficient, Zaheer Khan defined inefficiency. Though I thought he bowled well at Ahmedabad, he didn’t come close to matching the reverse swing he gathered there, looking tired in the two matches that followed and was easily the worst offender in the worst fielding side in test cricket. It seems as though his decade of service, 88 tests and 200 ODIs have finally worn away those sturdy legs. The twenty20 leagues beckon as does a few years of big paydays for the man. Not many Asian quicks have taken as many wickets as he has, and he shall be held in high esteem for a long time.
Sachin Tendulkar’s 18 months in limbo persist. How long will he go on…
England’s victory was beautiful, the more so as it was completely deserved; anything less than victory would have been a tragedy. Prevailing on surfaces designed to heavily favour the Indian side when no one had given them a cat’s chance is staggering. Cook captained conservatively (of course) but effectively. He led primarily by example (some example too) and his man managing skills must be something as Pietersen looked a different figure in the field, though his closeness to young and fringe players (Patel, Root) might hint toward the dynamics that persist in the dressing room. I don’t want to come down on Samit Patel too much, he gave the team and England his heart, putting the yards in, but he does remain a bits and pieces cricketer at the highest level. His consistency in the shorter forms is admirable and I believe that is where he must remain.
Stuart Broad was dropped.
He has only performed in the last three years when he is in danger of being dropped or has his position questioned (with the exception of the UAE, where I bow down) and I am happy he has been chipped down a notch. International cricket has come too easily for him. The years of hard graft were waived for Broad. He has been in a form of arrested development for some time; a year in the shires will do him well, allow him to grab back the pace he’s lost as well as his ability to hold a bat.
The Indian side were a shambles. They’ve really been in crisis since being destroyed by England two summers ago, but have rejected reality since. Now they must face up to the facts of the situation, which is that they are arguably weaker than Australia, England, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Test cricket remains the pivotal form of the game, the greatest challenge and the summit of the sport. It is no coincidence that the increasing power of India in the cricketing world has taken place in the last decade alongside their finest period as a test side.
Since the World Cup victory in 2011 the board and players have become complacent, which is perhaps understandable as the win was a defining moment for the nation. It was bigger than a sporting triumph. However when complacency strikes, it often results in years of stagnation as the West Indian‘s can testify. It might be ugly, but India will have to blood younger players, grit their teeth and build again, much as Allan Border’s Australian team did in the mid to late 80s. With their unmatched resources and player base it shouldn’t be long before they have a competitive side again
Perhaps the most interesting thing to have come from the series is the cautious optimism in the press concerning the English side. It has been a very poor year and an ignoble comedown, but when we look at the team, the elder statesmen (Pietersen, Swann) can be squeezed for another 2/3 years at least, while the core (Cook, Prior, Anderson) has another 5 years (potentially) ahead of them. With the batting and bowling stocks promising, maybe a lasting legacy can be laid down after all.
The next year will be intriguing.
Christ I hope Nick Compton cements his place in the side. I’ve fallen in love with his defence, it is irresistible to me.
Like dark hair or Irish literature.
I think he should be batting at 6 with Root to open. His grit is gorgeous and Root surely is the future. I shall defend them both with passion.
I am home in London and write these words of mine on a sparkling new laptop. It is almost silent and starts/shuts down with remarkable speed that I am unaccustomed to. I have lazily begun to patch up my renaissance literature and think a lot about psychoanalysis in relation to David Lynch’s films.
Please go and eat a prawn stir-fry, go on. Get the soy sauce out, be generous. Enjoy yourself.
I’ll have my reaction to the Australia-Sri Lanka test posted tomorrow.
[Sorry for the swearing here]
‘I’ll send you a love letter, straight from my heart, fucker! You know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet from a fucking gun, fucker! You receive a love letter from me, you’re fucked forever! You understand, fuck? I’ll send you straight to hell, fucker!’.