England v India, 3rd npower Test, Edgbaston, 3rd day August 12, 2011

Cricket, the great leveller

Every cricketer understands, knows and senses this; this game produces strange, twisted events in the careers of men

Having batted for almost 13 hours, making his highest score in any form of cricket and virtually ending India's chances of staying alive in this series, the first question Alastair Cook was asked was whether he had felt satisfaction or disappointment. "It's mad, isn't it, how you can still be disappointed when you score 290-odd," he said. "I suppose only cricket can do that to you."

Every cricketer understands, knows and senses this; this game produces strange, twisted events in the careers of men. "Tell me about it", several of the Indians might well respond as they nurse aching limbs. For all the usual merits of his carefree cricket, Virender Sehwag will be one of them; his Test series has so far involved fielding for 12 hours and 47 minutes, batting for precisely eight minutes and receiving, for all his labour, the first king pair of his Test career.

In the space of two balls, Sehwag has gone from being the turbo-engine the Indian team needed to get moving, to an advertisement about how not to approach any series in England, never mind the one that has been labelled 'marquee', 'big ticket' or 'clash of the titans'.

Sachin Tendulkar's first ever non-injury-related break from Test cricket has turned into an extended wait for the richness of form that would give his team the meat its middle-order now badly needs in the series, and along with it, the now unmentionable hundred for the history books.

Within four months of winning the World Cup, MS Dhoni's No. 1 India are being skewered for their lack of intensity, and in the two completed Tests of this series, have scored ten runs less than Bangladesh did in their two Tests in England last year. Bangladesh scrapped to a tally of 1003, compared to India's 993. The scoreline after two Tests: 0-2. Same difference?

Only cricket can do that to you.

India have the personnel to kick off the turnaround but it will have to - as it should have at the start, as it always did - begin with the batsmen. Cook's innings marked a grim day of struggle in the field, but one in which England played exactly as they intended. They put as much distance as they could between themselves and the Indian first-innings total and used up the scads of time available in the game, given that India's first innings folded in just over two sessions. It required, as Cook described, batting that was essentially "grinding out a day".

To save themselves, India will have to do that for about as long as Cook did. As he walked off the field, six runs short of becoming the first triple-centurion from England in two decades, he was patted on the back by the bowler, Ishant Sharma, who'd taken his wicket. One by one, Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Suresh Raina came across to shake his hand. Gautam Gambhir, who had sprinted to the pavilion to prepare to go out and bat again, did so at the end of the day's play.

Cook was of the opinion that the wicket at Edgbaston, which is often called a batsman's track, was playing well. "You can see that when people got in, a lot of people got in, so it can't be that bad a wicket," he said. The wicket had begun to turn but that should not be a dark art for the Indian batsmen to tackle. It is surviving the onslaught of the England seamers that has given them the most grief in this series, and India's top four need to make it through 50-odd overs to give themselves a chance to bat with freedom, confidence and flair.

India first four wickets were gone by the 56th and the 50th over at Lord's, the 51st and the 16th over at Trent Bridge and within the first 27 overs here at Edgbaston, in the first innings. India were supposed to be slow starters but on this tour it has not been a long-distance race, it has been quicksand.

In his very candid media conference on Thursday, Gambhir remembered that he batted for 11 hours to save a Test in New Zealand. It was a different situation, against a very different attack but it is times like these that cricketers draw solace and strength from. After all, who knows what else cricket can do?

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • karthy on August 13, 2011, 13:03 GMT

    if any of indian players reading this should give some relief.what i'm now seeing in england is my life for past a decade so don't get upset for bad times it wil come and go.if going gets bad nothing wil happen even if u do things right.so guys don't worry i hope ur good times wil come soon.

  • Ajay on August 13, 2011, 12:26 GMT

    What mattered for me was the World cup and India won it. After a few weeks everybody will forget this series. Whatever can go wrong for a team has gone wrong for this team.

  • Pritthijit on August 13, 2011, 12:14 GMT

    India's standard of test cricket is a shamble and it an embarrassment for any Indian cricket fan to watch. English fans would be happy to see their team is winning, but it is totally one-sided. The 3rd test will be India heaviest defeat in the series and in history. Indian players walk in the crease with no purpose and focus to bat for long periods. The selectors need to seriously sit down and discuss about future of test cricket in India. The IPL and quantity of cricket played is damaging the team. England is completely dominance and India has no answers. I do not want to watch the last test and ODI, unless there are significant improvements. Next season, I am not watching any IPL at all and I hope it is scrapped to safeguard Indian test cricket. I pay lot of money for Sky Sports to see India play and it is a joke. No excuses even with injuries and team need a big telling off from fans and management. Well done to England for being crowned new no 1 and playing with a passion.

  • Bobby on August 13, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    I am just checking if Cook has landed? I am sure he has as Dhoni had laned with a mere 77? I mean it has to be a land...:)

  • david on August 13, 2011, 9:39 GMT

    all of a sudden the number one position can only be decided over a 2 year period after the teams have played each other twice. if thats the case we will never be in a position to have a number one. before the series started india were the number one team and it was deemed that if england were to win the series by a clear 2 tests they would be the number one. if that happens then of course england deserve that position. they have beaten indian by a country mile up to date. until and when they have a knockout comp that decides, then england deserve that position with SA 2nd. i hope next year when they meet SA it will a better fought out contest. ( mind i hope results may be the same ) dpk

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    Hoping against all odds .....thats what this article is all about.

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2011, 9:09 GMT

    i m frm Pakistan,,,WELL for me achieving number 1 rank in the world is difficult, but after achieving that point,sustaining this position is even more difficult,and so is Indian team is struggling to save their number 1 ranking,suppose they will save their number 1 position, then what, will there be no change in this Team India side ? I mean change is a need of time, few of these batsmen are playing in this team for last 15 years, and most of them had acheived their targets, they are billionaire after playing in IPL, This indian side is very much a tired looking unit,, the way they grounded those easiest of catches,i dont know why did they rested the Abhinav Mukund, he scored century in the last tour game, and instead of playing him they choose sehwag who i m sorry to say cant throw the ball,it is really a shamefull act by playing an injured player,, no doubt abt the ability and talent of sehwag,the Indian selectors should induct new blood in this team, players like kohli

  • harsha on August 13, 2011, 9:05 GMT

    N.S- What is the latest news on Bhajji? K.S - Does it make a difference to his bowling whether he is fit or not? R.S- No, No Srikanth, you are confusing Kumble with Bhajji.Bhajji is more sensitive.Last time also he had a bad series, he had to get his finger operated.Kumble set a bad example to other cricketers, bowling with a jaw fracture in the Windies.Now everyone expects them to play through their pain for their country.Are they not aware that is only true nowadays for IPL ? N.S.- Why is Zak unfit and Viru looking uncomfortable in tests. Ex-C - They should have played a few practice games here to check their match fitness before they left for Eng N.S - As if that is going to happen. R.S- Can you imagine them using those shabby change rooms and hobnobbing with the Ranji players outside of IPL? What kind of message will that send out to our youngsters? N.S -Why are our bowlers being so ineffective against Eng batsmen.

  • harsha on August 13, 2011, 9:03 GMT

    Scene at BCCI meeting N.Srinivasan: Why are our boys doing badly in England? Do we have any suggestions. Ex-cricketer : Sir our boys were not prepared.We should have played 2-3 warm up matches in Eng N.S- What preparation? Look at me.You think I had any preparation to run BCCI? You think Pawar did?That's no excuse.Srikanth, you tell me K.Srikanth - We should have sent Anirudh.He would have done well.I have already included his name for next series N.S - We will see.Why cannot Raina and Yuvraj play the short ball properly? What do they do in his free time Ex-C: Yuvraj pretended to be sick to avoid playing under Raina's captaincy.So he cannot be seen practising.Raina was busy shooting for Champions League ad featuring CSK.He did not have any free time

  • Agnel on August 13, 2011, 8:18 GMT

    When Indians were going gaga over the world cup win achieved on home soil, that too where India won matches against No.8 (WI),9 (BD) and two qualifiers (Ireland & Netherelands) in the league and lost to SA and tied with England, and then won just one match each against Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka all with home advantage, I had ridiculed the euphoria and had predicted bad days to come. Mine would have been a solo voice then, but I had with me the strong history of India's 1983 performance when India beat the then No.1 and 2, mighty WI and Australia, in the league stage itself and then beat No.3 England in SF and the WI again in finals. That was the real performance from a team ranked just one notch above the then qualifiers Zimbabwe. Yet, India tumbled in test matches that followed. Arrogance of Dhoni in final XI selection, board allowing Zaheer to play a full IPL despite his injury history. Now we have reached a stage for finding excuses, by skipper n coach. Fit to be a No7 again

  • No featured comments at the moment.