August 20, 2014

Time for a refund?

Two middleweight boxers faced off. After two rounds, one chose to stop fighting

"That escalated quickly" © PA Photos

Tuesday should have been the last day in the last Test of a thrilling summer series. Instead, as I write, The Oval's plastic seats are unencumbered by bottoms, the scent of lager has almost faded, and tumbleweeds are blowing across the pitch, scattering the crowd of angry pigeons still hoping to get their money back.

For the second time this decade, India have been thrashed in England. Three years ago, it was like watching a tribe of barbarians running amok in a museum, toppling famous statues and smashing reputations. It was shocking and compelling.

But this time around, it was just depressing. Imagine you've paid to watch a bout between two middleweight boxers. You've enjoyed two rounds of bruising, enthralling pugilism, but then one of them decides to curl up in a ball, hedgehog style, in the middle of the ring and stays like that for the rest of the fight. You woud demand a refund.

Like the house built by the second cousin of the Three Little Pigs, India's tour looked good to start with, but as the Big Bad Wolf coughed to clear his throat for some serious huffing and puffing, the thing fell apart all by itself, and on closer inspection, turned out to be made of nothing but gold wrapping paper and unsold IPL merchandise.

Run-starved Englishmen took the chance to stuff their averages with high-calorie hundreds and India seemed only too eager to help. In fact, the tourists have finally perfected their recipe for the defeat sandwich: take a thick, juicy 100-over net session, nestle it between two soft collapses, and serve with a schadenfreude salad.

Predictably, MS Dhoni has remained calm throughout, indeed his zen-like state recalls the story of the Zen master at the end of the Tom Hanks film, Charlie Wilson's War:

So one day the selection committee went to the Zen Captain and they said, "Zen Captain we have lost by 266 runs. This is a disaster. It can't get any worse."

"Wait and see," said the Zen Captain.

Nine days later they lost again and the officials went to the Zen Captain and said, "Oh Zen Captain, we have lost by an innings and 54 runs to a bunch of has-beens and hopefuls who were written off by their own press a few weeks ago. This is terrible news. Surely, surely, it cannot get any worse."

"Wait and see," said the Zen Captain

Then India lost by an innings and 244 runs and the selection committee went to the Zen Captain and said, "You're fired."

"Wait and see," said the Zen Captain.

"No really, you're fired," they said. "Get out."

The summer will also be remembered for another noise besides the clatter of Indian wickets: the loud beeping sound made by several cricket pundits as they threw their Alastair Cook verdicts into reverse. Certain tabloid columns ought to be accompanied by a public safety message: "Warning! Pundit's opinion reversing. Please give him a wide berth."

But there is some good news for the tourists. Although their plan to fire off a string of rapidly accelerating defeats in quick succession in an attempt to create a massive failure vortex, tear a hole in the fabric of the universe, and send the whole team, with the possible exception of Stuart Binny, back in time to the morning after they won the World Cup, has failed, they do now get to play the stuff they're really good at.

And to help them with the 50-over portion of their tour, they have recruited the former Test legend, human megaphone, and three-time winner of the Moustache of Mumbai award (1985-1987), Mr Ravi Shastri. His job is as yet undefined, but if nothing else, we can expect the volume of Indian appealing to increase tenfold.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 24, 2014, 18:24 GMT

    Atticus100 - there was a certain champions trophy that we won in the middle, small affair, no one really heard about it. and then the tracks were spin friendly, so doesn't count eh?

  • irish on August 22, 2014, 11:47 GMT

    As an Indian Fan, I would like to ask all Indian Fans reading this, Are we overrating our ordinary and average cricketers with limited skills? Are we responsible for all the hype they get in media? Why do we tend to forget dismal overseas performances and bury them when India wins few one dayers and tests at home against likes of West Indies and New Zealand? Why are we content with MSD's repeated excuses after every shameful loss abroad? This team's performances are hurting our National Pride and when Those who don't take National Pride seriously, they should be replaced with ones who know What playing for your country and what putting up a fight means? Go Abroad, Dont win anything, come home win few, play IPL, earn millions..These So called superstars need to be shown mirror, which can reflect their true image..So that they know Why Dhawan cant become Lara, Why Kohli would never be Tendulkar and Why Pujara would never be Laxman... Answer is Simple- They are not that good..

  • Naresh on August 21, 2014, 7:45 GMT

    An article like this really hurts the Indian fan a lot. Anyway its our own making. When you lose this badly - it means the whole team needs a shakeup. We need to do things differently. Dhoni will come out and say give us time as a team. That is his own personnel view. The team needs a vision and it should be aligned. Starting with the BOWLING UNIT which is poor - compared to all cricket playing countries. Then the OPENERS. This is a critical area. We need good TALL openers. Our short players are stretching in these conditions. We need two players like DRAVID to open. One suggestion maybe is MANOJ TIWARI.

  • Paddy on August 21, 2014, 6:16 GMT

    Very dramatic but absolutely true.I don't know what happened to these guys after Lords.As per McGrath,they bowled well,but dropped many catches.I think that the hunger for test cricket is not there among some.Not a bad thing if they can now specialise in the three forms of cricket.That would allow others who want to play tests,to come in

  • Milton on August 20, 2014, 13:17 GMT

    Can the words, "County attack" be exhumed and re-used in this instance?

  • Suman on August 20, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    As an Indian fan, I can't actually complain about articles like this. After the abject surrender on the field, we do deserve this.

  • Dummy4 on August 20, 2014, 12:33 GMT

    It is agreed that the Coach needs to be hauled up - But - how much can you really "teach" batsmen with so much of match experience - you can't be in a National team without having your basics. It comes down to one's passion to win/succeed, practise self discipline & a commitment to your team & country. Unfortunately, the current Indian team did not display any one of the above. Neither were they helped by a whimsical leader - obsessed with his own fixed ideas. Indian Cricket Board must devise ways to discipline the players or show them the door.

  • David on August 20, 2014, 11:45 GMT

    " they do now get to play the stuff they're really good at." I really dont get this misconception that India is really good at ODIs. The World Cup win was way back in 2011 after which the freefall began.India has not won a single bi-lateral or tri-nation tournament overseas. Got thrashed 0-3 to England in 2011, did not reach the final of the CB Series in Australia in 2012, absolutely hammered 0-2 by South Africa and humiliatingly lost to minnows New Zealand 0-4. So why all these talk about India being good at ODIs????

  • Rawal on August 20, 2014, 11:23 GMT

    The last bit about Ravi Shastri was the best!

  • Steve on August 20, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    Love the description of the 2011 tour, hilarious!

  • No featured comments at the moment.