England v India, 4th npower Test, The Oval, 1st day August 18, 2011

England offer India a blueprint for revival

India's opposition has given them all possible indicators as to how turnarounds, while difficult, are neither impossible nor complicated

On a tour when much has rained down on India - bad planning, injuries, woeful form - the English summer skies finally opened up too. Play was washed out after lunch, probably in protest against the visitors' poor first session on the opening day of the Oval Test. It brought a halt to the one-sided proceedings after England's openers had motored along to 75 for no loss and set in motion more questions about where the Indian team was headed.

At the moment, in real terms, down the hatch. If this series has brought anything for Indian cricket, it would have to be the awareness that their golden age is slipping away faster than they imagined it would. To be in England when this is happening is fortuitous: India's opposition has given them indicators as to how turnarounds, while difficult, are neither impossible nor complicated. They may just take a while.

Ask Peter Moores, who coached England at their most tumultuous four years ago. Taking over from Duncan Fletcher, he headed straight into a commotion that looked like it belonged to an airport novel. Moores is widely regarded as the man who re-established the link between the first-class game and the England team, re-opening doors for James Anderson and Graeme Swann, introducing Ryan Sidebottom into the elite set-up and also hiring key members of his support staff: Andy Flower as batting coach, Ottis Gibson as bowling coach and Richard Halsall as fielding coach. Of the three, Gibson has left England to coach West Indies but Flower is now the alpha male of the support staff, with Halsall one of his deputies.

On the outside, however, Moores' 18 months with England looked like one dramatic turn of events after another: in the summer of 2007, India won their first series in England after 21 years, Michael Vaughan quit as captain in the middle of a series a year later and a theatrical bust-up with new captain Kevin Pietersen followed at the end of 2008 which resulted in both Moores and Pietersen being removed from their jobs.

Moores today coaches Lancashire, who are currently heading the County Championship table and are in line to win their first title since 1950 (when it was shared with Surrey), and he watches the England team with great satisfaction. He believes the links between the first-class game and the England set-up have played their own part in the rise to the No. 1 position.

"We see players come in from first-class cricket and do well straight away. Matthew Prior is one person who came up, we've seen Jonathan Trott come through, Eoin Morgan... I think you see many more players come into the England side and be successful. That's quite a big credit to county cricket."

The high standard was best reflected, he believed, in the opinion of the overseas pros in county cricket, "We've asked them [the overseas players] what they think of the standard and they say, it's strong, it's competitive. I think you need strong links between the two because the players at first-class level need to know what's expected of them if they go up to international cricket. I think those links have got stronger, and I think they need to stay stronger if England are going to remain the force in world cricket."

Along with the first-class feeder line he said elite teams needed good structures around them, "I don't think it's come by a fluke, there's been a lot of hard work behind the scenes and of course Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have done a fantastic job to manage the side. In order to become successful, you need a good support structure and a lot of good support staff around you. You need good players and you need depth. What England have got now is not just good players within the team but they have also got depth outside."

From this position, England, he believes, wants to "leave a legacy and become one of the teams of this era. We've seen the West Indies do that, we've seen Australia do that, we've seen India dominate over the past couple of years. I think we'll see that England want to try and do that, to stay at No. 1. To do that, that needs a lot of hard work. The only way it will ever happen is if there's a drive and hunger within the set-up to do it. And it sounds like it is."

India's challenges, Moores says, lie not in any shortage of talent but in how it is identified and handled. India's big question was finding replacements for its high-quality Test batsmen. "Which batsmen are going to replace the quality of the likes of Tendulkar, Laxman, Dravid and their maturity as Test match players?" Moores says, "No one has done it yet, come from being a good one-day player into a good Test match player. So can the likes of Raina, or someone like that, fill the boots of some of those obviously outstanding Test match players? That is going to be the challenge for India over the coming time. India are always going to have a big pool to select from - they have got to make sure they select the right players."

The one England batsman Moores believes can become the best 'crossover' player from ODI to the Test format is Eoin Morgan. "Morgan is one person who has made his mark in ODI cricket, and has now established himself as a Test match player. If he comes through and ends up being a very good Test match player, he'd be the one who actually does it. The normal route is to become a good first-class player and then you adapt that game to the one-day game."

The lure of the shorter formats, Moores said, was powerful and "for every nation that wants to be strong in both formats, you have to try and make sure you create good opportunities for people to be successful for both formats. And that the incentives for Test match cricket remain strong enough for people to want to do the work to become a very good Test match player."

It is where India must look ahead, not merely four months down the road when they tour Australia but perhaps four years down the line, when they return to England.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • P Subramani on August 19, 2011, 14:25 GMT

    The IPL has been blamed for the ills of Indian cricket.But if you look at the positive side of it, it probably helps players who are otherwise diffident and timid. By rubbing shoulders with the big names,their confidence level is definitely pushed up.I remember watching Ishant coming back into his own by bowling alongside Dale Steyn.The much talked about wrist position returned to how it was in Australia when Ponting found him a handful.The negatives on the other hand stem from the money. It is a fact that in the 50s and 60s cricketers were poorly paid.They used to even travel by trains. With the BCCI becoming cash rich things started improving. But the IPL turned out to be the other extreme.Some of the very talented players lost their motivation- which should really be the ultimate-to play for their country because they had already made a fortune from the game. That is a big negative of IPL even I do not see the IPL affect the Pietersens and the De Villiers.It is the mindset I think.

  • Salem Ramaaswamy on August 19, 2011, 13:14 GMT

    Shardaji, what are you driving at? After one series defeat you want us to pick up coaching lessons from Moores ? Is there no system in India for youngsters?Ranji,deodhar,Duleep,Challengerand A tours are not part of proper system? Sparing the odd one what is wrong with the selection of Indian team for past 3 years If you feel IPL is a deterrent England palyers also play plenty of 20-20 & 40 overs OD Having observed cricket for many decades I could assert that standard of County cricket is much below our Ranji standard. Which counties did the likes of SEwag , Gambir etc play? Nil England always had a strong legacy of fast bowlers We are in the process of building with the likes of Kapil,SRinath,Zaheer etc Our pitches need to be better Not doubt this England tour is a poor show against top class swing bowlingLet us give them some rope in view of their outstanding earlier.peformances But asking us to take lessons from Moores,Morgan[?] Cook[just one out of 6 innings] is outrageous

  • P Subramani on August 19, 2011, 12:13 GMT

    When England won the Ashes in 2005 and when they won superbly in West Indies, Duncan Fletcher was seen as a messiah from heaven. Today with India's sorry show, there are people wanting to blame the loss to a regime change after Kirsten. Fletcher is a wonderful coach and there should be no doubt about that. I am sure he will establish his credentials gradually with India.The thing that is crucial is that the domestic system will become more watchable and important if the big names are all there. When Dravid played for Karnataka or when Tendulkar played for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, it added value to the tournament and the players who played around them. This is where the BCCI has to spend some of its time. In planning the tours by adopting the policy of horses for courses. So if Virat Kohli.or Ajinkya Rahaneor the Tiwaris have done well in Australia and South Africa, there is no point taking Raina there.This is the vision that is needed but is sadly lacking in our selectors.

  • P Subramani on August 19, 2011, 12:13 GMT

    When Peter Moores had that rift with Pietersen, and both of them were removed, he was not seen as a cricket visionary. It is just that things have panned out well for England underAndy Flower in Tests alone.England were thrashed by Australia in the ODIs soon after the Ashes victory and virtually limped out of the World Cup 2011 with the Ireland loss being the very lowest point. If today England has an enviable bench strength it is not because Moores contributed very much to the system in England which in any case has ben sound historically. It is because the players with a promising future were identified correctly. I remember Greg Chappell when he was coach of India had said among other things that Suresh Raina was one of the best back foot players he had seen.Now that assessment was way off the mark as we have now seen.That is why the selectors have to identify batsmen for each format after watching the the way they play. The strokes they are comfortable with their footwork etc.

  • Ashwin on August 19, 2011, 11:59 GMT

    Spuddinho - On the last tour of England India dominated the final test at the oval and were just a couple of wickets away from victory as well - so I would say that the 2007 Test series victory was well deserved. They were close to a series victory in SA last time and competed very well - look at England last time in SA - they drew 1-1 but were destroyed in three of the tests. Close to a series victory in Aus in 2004 as well. So while they haven't dominated they have performed better than any other team going from subcontinent --> other conditions or even vice versa.

  • Ian on August 19, 2011, 11:55 GMT

    Waffle on about winning the 50 over World Cup. ODIs mean nothing to England. Test cricket is the absolute pinnacle, its all we care about. I'll take No. 1 in Test Matches over 10 ODI World Cup wins.

  • Ian on August 19, 2011, 11:51 GMT

    I'm getting rather bored of people belittling England's recent record. Over the last 2 years we've won every series apart from 1 (a draw in South Africa). Having won more Test Matches than India in that time, and beaten Australia, at Home and Away (very convincingly Away as well)

    The Wisden Trophy (West Indies in England) 2009 England 2-0 (2) The Ashes (Australia in England) 2009 England 2-1 (5) Basil D'Oliveira Trophy (England in South Africa) 2009/10 drawn 1-1 (4) England in Bangladesh Test Series 2009/10 England 2-0 (2) Bangladesh in England Test Series 2010 England 2-0 (2) Pakistan in England Test Series 2010 England 3-1 (4) The Ashes (England in Australia) 2010/11 England 3-1 (5) Sri Lanka in England Test Series 2011 England 1-0 (3)

  • Dummy4 on August 19, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    let eng ehjoy the moment..but as already told dont cry foul when u come to the subcontinent...

  • Benn on August 19, 2011, 10:02 GMT

    Just reading the comments from Indian fans about England having to prove themselves overseas before they can be considered the world's best team. Surely that rationale should have applied to India too? Apart from beating two of the weaker Test teams (NZ & WI), India haven't been too special on their travels either and haven't had a recent series win in AUS or SA. Yes, they had a very fortunate 1-0 win on their last tour to ENG, but even that was very much down to rain washing out the last session at Lords with England needing one wicket for victory. And you can discount India's away wins on the sub-continent too as they were all achieved in conditions too similar to those found at home. All of which kind of proves my point - India have held the no.1 spot for the last two years only by default.

  • Prathap on August 19, 2011, 9:31 GMT

    I congratulate England on achieving the top spot. I did not understand 2 things here. 1. England played in England against sub-continent teams and gathered all the points, everybody appreciates but if sub-continent teams do the same, they become flat track bullies. None of the teams Eng, Aus or SA can boast of mastering those conditions till date. England looked helpless in india not so long ago. 2. India were top for 2 years, one day champions--and now with one series loss everybody thinks that it is end of Indian cricket. The british commentators are amazingly one sided.

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