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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 hereFeeds: Andrew Hughes
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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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