Summer of 2011—India had Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Zaheer and Dhoni, possibly the biggest ever line up. Each of those stars had played enough International cricket at that stage and, more importantly, had played enough in England to foresee what was in store for them.
This was also the time when India had just won the fifty overs World Cup and that had promised the beginning of a new era—an era of India’s dominance worldwide, across all formats, or so we in India thought. That summer turned out to be the harshest ever with the first chance of shedding the ‘poor tourists’ tag been blown to pieces.
India had won the Test series in England in 2007 and a good 2011 was needed to prove that that wasn’t a fluke. India failed to win a single game, across all formats, on that tour. A tour to Australia followed that tour and the results didn’t change. India lost 0-4 in the four-Test series. The final nail in India’s coffin was England’s tour to India, for that broke the series of home domination too.
But that’s past, only a page-a phase in the history of Indian cricket and, perhaps, in the history of English cricket too. Indian team is in the middle of a transition and so is England, and both have shown early promise. While the new Indian team can still boast of a handsome home record, after the loss to Sri Lanka, the English team can’t do the same. That sets up this second half of the English summer very nicely, for India will see it as an opportunity to repeat the heroics of 2007 and England would want to dislodge any assumptions of their team losing ground, even at home.
India can take a cue from what Sri Lanka did to create history—runs on the board and bowlers hunting in a pack. Just like India, Sri Lanka didn’t have a world-class bowling attack. Had they depended on individual brilliance with the ball to win the Test match, they wouldn’t have managed to win the Test at Headingly. Only one five-wickets haul and that too in the last innings of the tour is a testimony to their teamwork. They didn’t hunt like a tiger but as a pack of wolves—kept plugging away and then made the most of every opportunity that came their way.
That’s what the Indian bowling attach must also do, for India too doesn’t have a very potent attack. Test matches are won by taking twenty wickets and India came very close to winning a Test match each in SA and NZ but couldn’t finish it off because the bowlers simply ran out of steam and hence it would be prudent to play five bowlers from the outset. Dhoni must put more faith in his own batting and put himself at 6, which will then allow him to play 5 specialist bowlers with Ashwin or Jadeja or both as bowling all rounders. Dhoni has never scored a Test ton outside the subcontinent and this tour might be a great time to change that record for good.
As regards the Indian batting, it should do better than it did last time around, for this young crop of Indian batsmen have shown the technique and the resilience to do well in alien conditions. Even though India didn’t win a single Test in South Africa and New Zealand, Indian batting crossed 350 run mark more than the famed Indian batting did in England and Australia put together. They might start slowly, like all Indian teams, but Pujara and Kohli will come to their own much before the series gets over. The biggest challenge for the Indian batsmen is to get used to the conditions, for it takes a long time to shed the habit of planting the front-foot and playing through the line. This will happen by and by. For now, let the game begin.
This article first appeared in Mid-Day and The Cricket Paper on 03.07.2014
This entry was posted on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 at 10:08 am
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