December 24, 2001

Hussain and his team have a lot to cheer about

Nasser Hussain
Nasser Hussain
© CricInfo
The series between India and England ended in an anti-climax on Sunday and even though India won it by a 1-0 margin, Hussain and team can go back with their heads held high.

The tactics adopted by the visiting captain has drawn a lot of flak from critics including those in the British media. Hussain, the tough man that he is, has defended his strategy, and rightly so, which needs to be appreciated. As a captain, he has stuck to a plan and has shown no weakness when faced with a posse of questions from critics. This is the kind of captain a cricketer would love to play under. Harold Larwood would have wished he had Hussain as captain rather than the man he played under during the bodyline series.

There was a fair bit of similarity between the bodyline series and this recent Test series. While Jardine accepted his bowlers could not contain Bradman, leave alone get his wicket, Hussain thought along similar lines with regard to Tendulkar. In essence, the main objective was to keep the maestros of the respective generations quiet and hope they got themselves out. In as much as Jardine succeeded in a way in his objective, Hussain also would deem his ploy worked pretty well. The only difference was that the bodyline series turned violent while the recent series concluded without any serious injuries to the batsmen.

Hussain should be commended for being realistic and going about things in a pragmatic manner. He knew the strength or lack of it of his inexperienced bowling attack and resorted to tactics, which would curb the Indian batsmen. Though at times he went overboard with the leg side line of Ashley Giles, he came up trumps in achieving the first innings lead in Bangalore. Hussain's main aim was to frustrate Tendulkar but in effect it worked very well in getting the much-fancied Indian batting to surrender meekly. The top order batsmen suddenly found the going too tough and got out to deliveries bowled at the customary off-stump line. In all fairness, not many Indian batsmen got out caught on the onside, which reflects the fact that they were forced to throw their wickets away.

The Indians have to accept that the English medium pacers found them out with Flintoff and Hoggard succeeding beyond expectations. Giles played the role of an irritant to perfection and he had the ultimate satisfaction of getting Tendulkar's scalp in the last Test. The Indians did not get their bowling combination right and going in for the extra spinner at Bangalore did not make any sense as the conditions were seamer friendly there.

Ganguly and coach Wright
Ganguly & Wright
© AFP
It seems that the Indian combination is decided more on subjectivity rather than objectivity. How else one could explain some decisions made in recent times. The Wright-Ganguly duo should see eye to eye in order to get the team going in the right direction. One does become a bad leader by taking bad decisions but he becomes worse by not taking the tough decisions. This is the difference in this series as the visiting captain Hussain took his own decisions and stood up to everyone in adversity.

Hussain may not be very popular with the media and the cricket fraternity but he has achieved his objectives after the debacle in the first Test at Mohali. Though his tactics may not find approval he made the Indians sweat both in Ahmedabad and Bangalore. The break will give both the sides time to work out plans for the one-dayers.

The home captain needs this break not only physically but mentally too. This year has been a very poor one for him if we were to go by his earlier achievements and it is time to for him to put on his thinking cap and get back into the groove as a batsman.

The visitors, meanwhile, go back home for Christmas and they will enjoy the wine and turkey as they have acquitted better than other sides in India. In a nutshell, the visitors have gained more even though they lost the series.