How to win like a dog
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