Monday, September 19, 2011

The Post England Tour Post

‘Twas the summer of 2011. Test No. 1 and ODI World Champions India went on a tour of England, a team which had just smashed the Aussies 3-1 in an away Ashes and had been fast becoming the most entertaining ODI team in the world. There were reams of newsprint, millions of blog posts (including quite a few by yours truly) written on the prospect of the contest which was set to unfold over the summer.
Alas the result turned out to be totally something else. Here is a short summary of the results.
  • England win the 4 Test series 4-0.
  • England win the one-off T20.
  • England win the 5 ODI series 3-0 with one game abandoned and other tied on Duckworth -Lewis scores.
And there, I have been through the painful part. Whatever happened to our champion team and Dhoni’s legendary luck? In the 2 decades of my cricket watching/following career there have been a few debacles, Australian tour of 1991-92 followed by the 1992 World Cup, South African Tour in 1996-97, Australia in 1999-2000. But at no time have we returned winless in international matches (Here we did beat Kent, Surrey & Leicestershire). Here is my attempt to analyse the disaster that the tour was. So here goes  the final post of this tour.
  • England were much better than India. Period. They out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded us. When I had done the preview for the Pataudi Trophy, I had not given too much weightage to one essential bit that the games were being played in England. Also the English unit performed like a machine, the batsman got runs, a few “daddy hundreds” were scored, the bowlers took wickets. Replacements were readily available and fitted in seamlessly. And if the team somehow found itself in trouble, there was always someone to bail them out whether it was Broad in 2nd Test at Trent Bridge or the debutante John Bairstow in Cardiff.
  • Zaheer Khan hamstrung at Lords. That was the single biggest factor contributing to this result. During the World Cup, he had remarked that “as a bowling unit I think I am doing well”. Might have been a slip of tongue but he couldn’t have put it any better. Given the current Indian bowling context, he is irreplaceable. Lots of talk takes place on who replaces our batting stalwarts, but that would be a simpler task as compared to replacing Zaheer.
  • Injuries. Lots of injuries. Pujara, Sehwag, Gambhir, Zaheer, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Ishant, Sachin, Rohit, Praveen, Munaf, Nehra. All injured at some point or the other. Not a match passed without one or two injuries in the team. Its not that the Indians were the only ones who got injured, the English team also had a few but they had far better and ready replacements. And ours had the more impact. Entire bowling lineup decimated by injuries, half the batting lineup, even the replacements getting injured. Some were accidental on-field injuries like Gambhir (twice!!), Yuvraj, Rohit Sharma etc, some could only be due to poor “injury management”, Zaheer, Sehwag, Tendulkar. The tour began with Zaheer limping off hamstrung on the opening day of the Lords Test and ended with Munaf beingcarried away in Cardiff.
  • Poor scheduling. One 3-day game to acclimatise before the Test series. 3 side games before the ODIs. I do not understand who came up with this great schedule. My suggestion always have the ODI part before the Test series, gives more time to acclimatise. And there was a 4-day gap between the 4th & 5th ODIs for some unknown reason. We managed to get Praveen Kumar injured in this period.
  • Some plain bad luck. This was true in the One-dayers. Dhoni loses all 5 tosses to start with. And there was rain to interfere in case we somehow get into a, lets not say winning, but an advantageous position.
Now the analysis over. Now for the positives from the tour. It might be shocking to discover that there were a few bright spots (albeit on an individual basis) on this dismal tour. But can’t be getting all negative here.
  • Indian cricket and its fans learnt to appreciate Rahul “The Wall” Dravid again (I think I made him sound like a WWE entertainer here :P ). 3 centuries in losing causes in the Tests. Was forced to open the batting, where he carried his bat through the innings. Fell afoul of the DRS (henceforth to be known as the Dravid Removal System). Out of the blue was also picked up for the ODI leg of the tour. Shocked, he announced his retirement, but signed off in style. A hattrick of sixes in his T20 debut-cum-farewell and a typical hardworking and understated 69 in the 5th ODI at Cardiff. For a long time fan, it was great to see the Legend getting his due. And now the BCCI has named him in an enquiry committee to find out what went wrong in the tour. Now thats going to be an interesting report.
  • Praveen Kumar was the other hero for India. No one considered him test material. But a couple of tests down the line, PK was leading the bowling attack, and doing a good job of it. There was an entertaining cameo as well.
  • Suresh Raina in the white shirt looked lost. A 42 ball pair at the Oval was the low point. Suresh Raina in the blue shirt was awesome. How can the same person become so different just by changing the format of the game. Also one player who is seen in the game throughout the play.
  • Ajinkya Rahane with an awesome First Class average made his India debut in an T20 game. And performed quite well there as well as in the ODIs. Won’t be commenting too much as the chances might be few given our batting resources.
  • Parthiv Patel swivelling around to take care of the short ball provided a welcome relief in the ODIs after Raina’s test struggles.
In short, England were much better than us and they got a little help for our bad luck. But that was thoroughly deserved. The injuries, rains, DRS contoversies, Ian Bell’s run-out and Anna Hazare combined to ensure that the Indian team did not get a roasting that it could have got from our media.
P.S. After writing out the post remembered that Sachin Tendulkar did not get to his hyped up landmark of  100 international 100s. Mind you, even getting to 99 is beyond anyone could have imagined though.
P.P.S Dear Team India, I know it was a very tough tour. And you were not able to perform to our expectations. But don’t worry, I will be there to follow and support you when you play next. Lets hammer the English at home.
Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

No comments :

Post a Comment