England v India, 3rd npower Test, Edgbaston August 15, 2011

Coronation treat

The Barmy Army celebrate England's ascent to Number 1, Nagraj Gollapudi records the moment

Tom Cruise came in as Maverick from Top Gun. Elvis came. Spiderman came. Robocop came. Kiss came. Mr Blobby came. Santa Claus came. The Native Americans came. The various versions of Shane Warne came. Liz Hurley was not far behind. Young blondes wearing white chef's, or Cook's, hats with the number 294 printed on them came. Indians wearing the Gandhi topi came. The penguins, too, jumped in. Even the naked apes came. Everyone except God came.

The Eric Hollies Stand at Edgbaston was a universe of its own last Saturday. The occasion was the coronation of England as the world's No.1 Test team. And the sights, sounds, colours and noises made sure the new kings were feted in grand fashion. The choreographers for the show were the Barmy Army. When Bill 'the Trumpet' Cooper blew his instrument as Big Graham, the leader of the chorus, sang the 'Last Post' at the fall of the ninth Indian wicket, the noise reached a crescendo. It was a moment when even the England players acknowledged that they ruled the Test world.

"It was just a fantastic feeling when the last Indian wicket fell. We have not always been the best team in the world but we have always had a great time. To be No.1 in the world and see it on the rankings and Australia No. 5 is amazing. That is phenomenal," David Peacock, one of the Barmy Army's founding members, gushed in his soft voice, clutching a half-empty glass of beer on the terrace of the Australian pub Walkabout in the heart of Birmingham. Groups of Barmy Army fans were scattered at various drinking holes, some across the canal that overlooks the Walkabout.

"It doesn't really matter that we are Twenty20 champions," Peacock said. "We are not worried about the one-day World Cup. For us in England, Test cricket is what matters. I am 44 years old and this is one of the best days of my life."

About 400 Barmy Army members were present at the ground when England were crowned the No.1 team. The Edgbaston Test had already been earmarked as the first Barmy Army Arms reunion since the Ashes triumph in January.

"Not in the same league. Long way behind," Peacock said when asked to compare England's ascent to the top of the rankings to the Ashes victory. "India, let's be honest, their preparation was so poor. It is embarrassing. Look how we prepared for the Ashes - proper warm-ups, serious cricket, everything was geared up for us to peak."

The Barmy Army's charm has always been that it was a team of joyful, enthusiastic supporters of a team that did not really deserve them. When they first started in Australia in 1994-95, during the fifth Test in Perth, they had a banner that said "who are these cricketers who keep following us around?"

As a child, Peacock, like thousands of English cricket fans, would dream about travelling to Australia. Growing up, he never thought he would ever be able to. But Peacock, who works as recruitment director for the fan club in London, has been to Australia five times. To begin with, he, like various England sides, suffered pain inflicted by the dominant teams of Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

"The worst was to go to Australia and be done 5-0. But in hindsight we were outclassed by probably the best Test side [ever]. It is very hard to go halfway round the world, spend £10,000 and come back having lost 5-0," Peacock said. "But actually people do not understand the beauty of following your team and the fun you have following England on tour. Even if we lost we had the best time in our lives. We just saw a great team beat us in 40-degree heat. We all know we are privileged. My dream was to see England win in Australia and then give up. But now that I have seen it once I never want to give up."

"It is a funny thing. We are not used to it," Cooper, the trumpeter, said over the phone from London. "We have seen England play some poor games over the years but now to see them become the No.1 is a fantastic feeling. We thought India were going to be a big test but to beat them so comprehensively, it has been a bit of a strange feeling. We are not used to dominating teams like that.

"We are not used to singing songs like 'We are the champions, we are the No.1'," Cooper said. He plays the trumpet for a living and had toured for the first time with the Barmy Army on the Caribbean tour of 2004.

The first time Cooper played the 'Last Post', a tune he plays very rarely, was when England lost the Ashes in 2007. "It was a very sad day," he said. "But to have the crowds at Edgbaston singing 'We are the champions' was fantastic."

England are only days old in the top seat but already their followers want them to chart a path of dominance in the years to come. "Tonight we are the best team in the world. And we beat India, who were the best team in the world. We need to win the ODI World Cup. We need to dominate overall," said Steve Butt Fish, an automotive engineer from the Midlands who has been with the Barmy Army for 10 years.

Fish, who was sitting in the grand stand when England sealed the victory, was disappointed that Sachin Tendulkar did not get his 100th century. "We all wanted Tendulkar to get his hundred. He is such a great batsman, a great sportsman; so why shouldn't he?"

Peacock also expects more from England in the future. For him winning away from home is the real test, and he wants to see England win in India. "There is a massive difference," he said. "To see England win in Australia was better than becoming No.1. But it is nice to be No.1. India have not shown up. We have got to beat them in India. That will be a big series win. We have got to win away from home; those are the hard yards. We go halfway around the world to watch England play. So for me the away victory carries a lot of meaning." The Andrews in the England team - Flower and Strauss - better listen.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arshad on August 17, 2011, 4:02 GMT

    Always remember general pitch condition and climate is the same in India and Pakistan so why Pakistan is able to produce a stream of genuine fast bowlers of the highest class whereas India produced none!!!!

  • John on August 17, 2011, 3:34 GMT

    The great thing about the Barmy Army was that it was formed when England was a bad side and has continued to follow the team through the lean years. Even when England was the worst team in test cricket in 1999, the players could always count on the support of the Army. Now at last the members have something real and tangible to reward their support, a team which has beaten the best in the world. It's a feeling known to Indians and Australians and West Indians before them. Let the Barmy Army have its time in the sun- each and every one of them has deserved it.

  • S on August 17, 2011, 1:37 GMT

    Congratulations to the English supporters and the Barmy Army. Your guys are playing top notch cricket at the moment. Hope your team's stay on top is as good and exciting to follow as it has been so far in getting there. Good positive cricket, attacking players and good sportsmanship. Don't worry about some of these whiners who call themselves Indian fans. True CRICKET fans will salute your team, no matter what their national allegiance. A Pakistani fan.

  • srikanth on August 16, 2011, 22:47 GMT

    Dravid made 2 centuries in first two tests. Dhoni made good scores in third test. Patience is needed to make big scores. But problem is lacking of big partnerships. Dropping catches have nothing to do with pitch. Sure, every home team is strong in home conditions. So, we can't say India won world cup due to the venue is India. England played well as team and won. No need to criticize Indian team and there is no wrong in parsing England team at this moment.

  • Dummy4 on August 16, 2011, 21:09 GMT

    As an Indian fan I would accept England to be No.1 team as they have not only defeated India but defeated in style...I saw a similar attitude in Aussie team a couple of years ago.

  • Dummy4 on August 16, 2011, 20:14 GMT

    @Valavan: If England prepare a pitch to suit their fast bowlers.....then we will prepare a pitch to suit our spinners.......and also mind the fact we dont always prepare that kind of pitches....Subcontinent wickets are always slow and turning like England and Australia pitches assisting seam.....If batsman cannot bat in slow wickets, we cannot take responsibility for their inability.....Its only a matter of time India return back to form to take back their No.1 title........

  • Dummy4 on August 16, 2011, 20:09 GMT

    @Raghuvir: Whenever England are touring in India to play Test cricket.....it is inevitable they will be beaten quite comprehensively by the Indian team........

  • Valavan on August 16, 2011, 19:29 GMT

    @Sinnitin, England plays in home grown greentops, and India plays on Australian grown pace wickets in India. You also prepare dead wickets, harbhajan is a mouse out of sub continent, if he can take 10 wickets in Indian pitches, it means you make pitches suiting indian spinners. If i remember nagpur in 2004 n 2009, when Aussies and SA won the test, the next pitches at Mumbai and Calcutta were just slow dead turners to suit indian spinners. BTW, Edbagston was a batting wicket, it assisted seamers on first day, other days it was dead and Mishra got vicious turn to grab 3 wickets, and Indians slumped to a all round pacers in a flat batting wicket on day 4. If PK and Dhoni can score freely even though why didnt others put up their mark, In England/Aust/SA/NZ, 1st session in a day is testing, assisting swing bowling, the batters (quality batsmen) weather the storm to attack in the post lunch session.

  • Arshad on August 16, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    People like sinnitin spend their whole life living in illusion and not accepting the reality. They will continue to live with deep pain or perhaps continue to "bleed blue" until India defeats England in a test series.... That I believe won't happen in the next 15 to 20 years..... I really feel sorry for sinnitin!!

  • Shanmugam on August 16, 2011, 15:38 GMT

    While it is heartening to see some of the Indian fans accept defeat graciously, it is sickening to see some trash the team that beat them comprehensively. Trust me, it doesn't do your team any good if they were beaten by a 'poor' team. Another thing is the chant "you beat us in your conditions. we will beat you in ours". It is raised every time an England fan says that we would like to beat India away. Clearly the Barmy Army fan realizes that it is a tough challenge when he says beating India in India would be a tougher challenge. No England fan is under the pretense that beating India away is easy because we beat them at home. First these so-called fans like sinnitin should realize that there is no test series in October. It is a ODI series and India may well beat/wallop us in that. While a defeat is bad, it isn't as bad as a defeat in test. We hope to see competitive cricket when these two very good teams play. One thing is for sure - England will come prepared.

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