January 18, 2012

England

How to win like a dog

Andrew Hughes
MS Dhoni at the presentation ceremony after the Perth Test, Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day, January 15, 2012
MS Dhoni folds his ears back and stares into the middle distance to adopt a "I'm-waiting-for-you-to-make-the-first-move-and-then-I'll-bite-you" look  © Getty Images
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Sunday, 15th January So 3-0 then. But the fallout from this little run of unfortunate results has been relatively mild. There’s been no talk of ditching Fletch, no declarations of discontent from the upper echelons of Indian cricket and, remaining true to their anti-review policy, the BCCI have not announced their equivalent of the Argus Report. Indeed, a suspicious onlooker might conclude that they don’t seem to care all that much.

Even the players seem to be remarkably sanguine about the way things are going down under. Responding to the merest hint of a suggestion that perhaps it might be time to consider removing one of the batsmen; VVS Laxman, for example, Gautam has hit back at the naysayers.

“There should not be anyone who should be deciding about his retirement. It should be him.”

This is admirable sentiment, but I fear that Gautam is missing the point. VVS is one of the most stylish batsmen ever to have played the game and for many years has been a joy to watch. But perhaps the key words in that sentence are "has" and "been". In Laxman’s case, "perhaps he should consider retiring" is a polite euphemism for "he’s batting like Chris Martin on a bad day".

Of course, it’s up to VVS to decide precisely when he retires from cricket and the same goes for Dravid and Sachin. But it’s up to the selectors to decide whether they deserve to remain in the team in the first place. It is an unfortunate reality of professional sport that sometimes, when you aren’t playing well, you get dropped. And, sadly, that applies whether you’re 17 or 37.

Monday, 16th January Michael Vaughan thinks one of England’s strengths is aggression and he doesn’t want them to go all diplomatic, just because they are playing Pakistan. By aggression, he doesn’t mean sledging. And I don’t think he means throwing the ball at the batsman in a fit of adolescent pique. No, he’s talking about something altogether more spurious.

First of all, he likes the idea that England "hunt in packs". This sounds exciting and dangerous, but I’m not sure what it means. Do their off-field activities include prowling the streets wearing wolf masks? Do they sniff each other when they meet? And what are they hunting? The ball? The batsman? Rabbits?

He also likes their aggressive body language. But what does he mean? Cricket is a game that involves a lot of standing about. Have you tried standing still aggressively? I did and I nearly fell over. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right. But it must be jolly tricky to display aggressive body language when you’re at fine leg or deep backward point and all your stony glares and furrowed brows pass unnoticed by the distant batsman.

I suspect that by "aggressive body language", Mr Vaughan means the kind of niggling and posturing you get with squabbling schoolboys who know they aren’t allowed to fight in front of the teacher. It may seem like a good wheeze in the dressing room, but there is nothing duller than watching grown men going through the motions of pretending to be moody teenagers because that’s what they’re expected to do.

And, according to Mr Vaseline, there’s one more way in which England display their praise-worthy aggression. “They constantly throw the ball into the keeper which annoys the opposition.”

Yes, and it irritates the hell out of us spectators too. But there you are, India, if you want to reverse that decline in fortunes, Dr Vaughan’s prescription is clear. Look cross, pretend you’re a wolf and throw the ball to Dhoni for no apparent reason

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Krishnendra Nandi on (January 20, 2012, 6:27 GMT)

England were thrashed by Pakistan though they are Team no 1 .India was washed away by Aussies .We are the number 2 side ...So do rankings matter much in Test Cricket and if they do why cant we have similar kind of pitches being prepared all over the world so that teams can compete on a level playing field.

Posted by SRB on (January 19, 2012, 15:23 GMT)

Why do all englishmen australians etc use the word Dog when speaking about Indians ? Must have something to do with the movie ....

Posted by Tania on (January 19, 2012, 6:08 GMT)

“They constantly throw the ball into the keeper which annoys the opposition.”

I am sure the keeper would be more annoyed than anyone else. Recently I watched a match where the bowler collected the ball hit straight back to him. He picked it up and threw it to the keeper (Batsman was well inside the crease) - and the keeper threw it straight back to the bowler again... I thought, WTF?

I will never understand these pommies...

Posted by vj on (January 19, 2012, 1:57 GMT)

@skeyshwin disastrous performance? wait till the match finishes, buddy

Posted by waterbuffalo on (January 19, 2012, 1:40 GMT)

England just have to watch all available footage of McGrath, Hayden, Warne, S. Waugh and Punter in their prime. I have often wondered if the 'no sledging' policy enforced by the ICC has contributed to Australia's slight demise as a cricketing power. Match referees and all that.

Posted by KVSK Prasad on (January 18, 2012, 23:28 GMT)

Why is it that no one talks about Sachin's retirement? At 39, despite struggling to put a 3-digit score on the board for the 100th time, no one seems to talk of his retirement. What makes him so special? What makes him immune to being pushing into the same corner that other members of the erstwhile Fab four are pushed into? At 39, he is fit enough to be fielded in the ODI squad despite no performances to speak of in the recent times, but, Laxman gets a lot of media coverage - Why? It was last year that the same Laxman kept the Aussies at bay with a back problem and scripted one of the best performance when he won the match for India. It almost makes me wonder why being Sachin makes you immune to all the flak and ire that Laxman and Dravid are inviting.

Posted by ret on (January 18, 2012, 23:24 GMT)

'Aggressive body language" is a current favourite of commentators in Australia too. I may be getting old but I find it as irritating and useless as modern corporate catch phrases. The fundamentals of playing winning cricket have not changed in more than a hundred years. Don't bowl crap and field well. Looking aggressive doesn't help a whole lot if a team fails on these counts. "Throwing the ball to the keeper annoys the opposition?" Well I suppose they would prefer fielders to throw it to the spectators but not even Phil Tufnell did that.

Posted by Hugh Hiscock on (January 18, 2012, 17:44 GMT)

I'd much rather listen to the dulcet tones of MP Vaughan than this drivel. You've just successfully written an article about nothing at all..

Posted by skyeshwin on (January 18, 2012, 16:22 GMT)

How about writing about the No1 team's disastrous performance against pakistan eh?

Posted by Aditya on (January 18, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

I don't think Gambhir missed any point. He was asked a specific question about whether VVS should retire. And that's the question that he answered by saying that it's his decision. He wasn't asked whether he should be dropped. I wonder if you'd have liked him to say that VVS needs to be dropped or that he should retire. That would have made a good story for you?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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