India in England 2011

Will India's men of tomorrow stand up?

The defeat in England is a sign of the future in Indian Test cricket. What it needs most is men of ability, of a larger appetite, with the greed to succeed

Sharda Ugra

August 24, 2011

Comments: 59 | Text size: A | A

Sreesanth lets his frustration show, England v India, 4th Test, The Oval, 2nd day, August 19, 2011
Test cricket brutally scrutinises every skill a cricketer may have been born with, developed or dreamt about © Getty Images
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In the home team's dressing room at The Oval, cricketers in the viewing gallery must keep the company of Thomas Jefferson and Lawrence of Arabia. Or rather, the words they once said, which players can read every time they walk into the area that overlooks the field. It is what Surrey cricket manager Chris Adams set up for his team; during the final Test between England and India at The Oval, only the English could read them.

Jefferson speaks crisply of "mental attitude" 200 years before Powerpoint presentations and corporate motivational talks. But it is what TE Lawrence, archaeologist, scholar, soldier, said that lingers.

"All men dream but not equally," the sign reads. "Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind wake up in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible."

The visiting team at The Oval never gets to read this sign. Had any of the Indians walked past that wall on their Tour de Trauma, they would have realised which category of dreamers their team belonged in.

Now, why the waffling on about dreams? Did Lawrence ever open the batting for Arabia?

Fine, here's reality: over six weeks in England, India lost more than a series and their No. 1 Test ranking. Eight months after a ringing 1-1 away draw against South Africa, India have been handed a whitewash in a four-Test series, their first in 44 years. What they have lost are their moorings as a competitive Test team of world travellers. It does not, of course, mean that India cannot completely turn England, or indeed any other team, inside out in their own yard. If the two teams were to dash across to Asia this week, India could well do so with interest and fury.

Yet the most respected teams are those who dream beyond their own geography. Their imaginations stretch past the strongest and most obvious probability. It is what gave India their most successful decade in Test cricket at the turn of the millennium, mostly without contracts and often with support staff of precisely four.

From the mix of Tendulkar, Kumble, Srinath, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman came a generation of dreamers who redefined Indian cricket, particularly outside the subcontinent. From the confidence of Test wins overseas, a World Cup final in South Africa, Test series wins in Pakistan, West Indies and England, came the environment that a new generation, of Dhoni, Gambhir, Ishant and Raina, now works and plays in.

The defeat in England is not the end of the world; it is not the end of cricket as India knows it. It is merely a sign of the day after tomorrow in Indian Test cricket. At the moment, it is not good. What Indian cricket, replete with resources and talent, needs most now is a new generation of Lawrence's dangerous men. Not merely men of ability but of a larger appetite. Of the greed to succeed, of the hunger for improvement.

If a few of them emerge from the new selection panel, or from the BCCI itself, the Test team's life will be far easier, methodical and rationally planned (and we will all die happy). For the moment, though, the banana skins that littered the way to the tour of England - an unthinking board, loopy selectors, a World Cup victory that could not really be relished by those who won it, because a seductive seven-week Frankenstein's monster could not be resisted - are not going to go away. Neither will what awaits the Test team in less than six months, the one event they can use to try and repair their reputation with - a tour of Australia.

India's first overseas Test after 4-0 (or what is now called the 0-val), will begin in Melbourne on December 26. In between there is the Champions League Twenty20, whose qualifier, featuring a hopefully robust Gautam Gambhir, begins less than 72 hours after the final ODI against England in Cardiff. MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma and Munaf Patel will also resume play within a week. Then there are 10 ODIs - five each against West Indies and England - and three Tests against West Indies at home before the Indians jet off to Australia.

At one stage in this series Andrew Strauss said, "In order to keep improving as a side you've got to keep improving the set-up and sometimes that means different personnel, sometimes it means different methods of preparation." The BCCI has asked for an additional practice match in Australia, but other than that, sorry, boys, looks like you are pretty much on your own.

 
 
The tomorrow of Indian Test cricket is about to reveal itself. Not only in terms of runs scored or wickets taken but about who, despite all the hurdles - BCCI, Twenty20, schedules, fatigue, celebrity - can emerge, visibly improved, the greediest of new dreamers
 

On the tour of England, India's lack of runs and wickets was quantifiable. The intangible imbalance between those striving to compete and those content to coast was not. Those with the big dreams, even if only for personal excellence, and those with pocket-sized aspirations. It is easy to single out India's most recent dangerous men in Test cricket; it is those from the next generation - the era of plenty - who at the moment are hard to identify.

The best Test sides in the world have always had enough dangerous men. Between them they can pull, push, lift, blaze, and chart the course of every iconic squad's most unforgettable voyages - Lloyd's West Indies, Hussain's England, Ganguly's India, Taylor's and Waugh's Australia, Imran's Pakistan, Ranatunga's Sri Lanka, Howarth's New Zealand, Bacher's South Africa.

England 2011 has established that India's Test cricket must now arm-wrestle with this day after tomorrow.

The degrees of difficulty between the long and the short game are considerable, but the rewards remain far too skewed towards the latter. A player can fake it in short-form cricket but not in Tests. They brutally scrutinise every skill a cricketer may have been born with, developed or dreamt about. Beyond their physical and mental abilities in the craft itself, Test cricket also strips bare over and over again, personality itself. England has done that to every man on the Indian team, and each of them knows, more than a rival or an expert or their own family does, just who he is and where he stands - as batsman, as bowler, as fielder, as captain, as team man.

To lift itself as a Test team beyond England, India require more than their new coach; they will need a collective of individual hunger and ambition. Maybe it will be sparked by a revitalised young leader, maybe by a brat pack of skill and character deeply stung by 4-0.

The tomorrow of Indian Test cricket is about to reveal itself. Not only in terms of runs scored or wickets taken but about who, despite all the hurdles - BCCI, T20, schedules, fatigue, celebrity - can emerge, visibly improved, the greediest of new dreamers. Who have decided - as Edmund Hilary so perfectly understood it - not that they want to be extraordinary, but want to accomplish extraordinary things. If those numbers dwindle, so will India's Test team.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by cricfan60 on (August 26, 2011, 17:29 GMT)

A player selected for test matches should put a price on his wicket. Avoid risky shots as time is not a factor in tests these days. Instead of batting average, I feel balls faced per innings should be the criteria. Here are the career figures for our team. Player BF/Innings R Dravid 125 SR Tendulkar 104 VVS Laxman 94 G Gambhir 93 Wasim Jaffer 71 Aakash Chopra 66 V Sehwag 64 MS Dhoni 64 Yuvraj 61 SK Raina 55 Mukund 52 Kolhi 45 Pujara 41 A Mishra 40 I Sharma 39 S Sreesanth 20 RP Singh 17

The 1st 4 are just fine. If numbers 5 to 7 can bat like a Dravid, they are consuming 20 extra overs each every test match. Enough to draw some of the matches we have lost. I can not understand how Jaffer loses out to Yuvraj/Raina and even Sehwag in test matches?

Posted by KrishnanN on (August 26, 2011, 14:15 GMT)

"Maybe it will be sparked by a revitalised young leader, maybe by a brat pack of skill and character deeply stung by 4-0."

Are you suggesting a change in leadership? Because, frankly, that is absurd! Not six months ago, we were basking in the euphoria of a World Cup win and hailing Dhoni as the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket. This debacle is entirely due to cramped scheduling and injury mismanagement, with healthy dollops of bad luck.

The loss is painful but please don't go overboard in the post-mortem.

Posted by RS_Cric_11 on (August 25, 2011, 20:45 GMT)

so keeping RP out of contention for 3 years was not a good option. He looked fat to me (ofcourse he was holidaying - so no fault for him). I wonder why Munuf stayed with the team. He should have been with his family when not playing. Comming to the main - There is no need to panic in the batting department, as INDIA has enough firepower in their batting like - ROHIT SHARMA, PUJARA, RAHANE, MANOJ TIWARI, KOHLI, RAINA. ofcourse, we need to find another SEHWAG for opening (as he 'll be now a injury prone) but we need to find atleast three opening bowling pair. Zaheer can at best play three years - so we need atleast 6 fast bowler (apart from Ishant) to groom under him. Bring back IRFAN PATHAN please and ask him to train at NCA, he 'll give us a great allrounder.

Posted by RS_Cric_11 on (August 25, 2011, 20:29 GMT)

A Good article. We need to groom fresh blood. 4-0 is completely an unrealistic result even in dreams with respected batting we had (Rahul/Sachin/Laxman/Raina/Dhoni- all played 4 tests). The real problem was Indian Bowling. In first match at Lords Zaheer removed both the openers but unfortunately got injured, result- the work load increased for Ishant and Praveen (who were out-standing in WI) and KP was given benifit of doubt(LBW) and pile on 201* - This could happen only because Praveen and Ishant were bowling for the first time in England and their mentor was out of action. Subsequently, the load of bowling increased on these two bowlers. nearly 50 overs a test for fast bowler is a huge task and I am wondering how are they playing. Its not a joke is huge toll on the body. Frustrating to see RP back into the action straight into the test. Frustrating because he was out for 3 years completely - why this should happen -- we need variation in the bowling department and RP can swing

Posted by S.N.Singh on (August 25, 2011, 13:52 GMT)

IT IS RIGHT TO SAY WHAT YOU WANT,NO ONE CAN SAY YOU ARE WRONG. THERE IS NOTHING "INDIA" CAN DO WITH THE SPIORIT OF THE GAME. THE DAYS WHEN THE "BATSMAN GET THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT" IS NO MORE. IN THE " PAST YEARS "THEY HAVE SUFFERED BY THE UMPIRES OF PAKISTAN, AUTRALIA, ENGLAND AND NOW SRI LANKA. ICC WANT DSR,ETC. BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THEY HAVE T O"ROBB" INDIA OF THEIR INTEGRITY TO GET DRS." THE UMPIRING WAS AWFUL IN ENGLAD THIS SERIES" AND NO ONE SAYINGANYTHING ABOUT IT. ENGLAND PLAYERS, SCREEMING ON THE UMPIRES. WHYTHE ICC DO NOT CONSTITUTE A LAW FOR THREATENING THE UMPIRE BY SCREEM AND POINTING AND STEERING ON THEM. THIS IS WHAT AUSTRALIA AND ENGLAND ARE DOING AND THEY WANT TO RUN THE WORLD CRICKET.THE UMPIRE SHOULD BE GIVEN A MONETARY PENALITY FOR MAKING MISTAKES AND THERE SHOULD BE MORE THAN 2 REVIEWS IN AN INNINGS. THEIR WERE 3 AUSTRAILIANS UMPIRES IN THE SERIES, AND THEY WERE NOT UMPIRING.WITH BATSMEN SHOULD BE HAVE THE DOUBT.

Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 12:57 GMT)

A very good article. But i don't agree with it entirely. Yes test cricket strips & exposes the cricketer. U learn about yrself & fans see the real u. Test cricket is a test of yr 1 physical fitness,mental strength, technique. And these make up yr package. Now, u can't sustain so many injuries in a series & still maintain momentum & balance & rhythm. I NDIA had 5 different opening combinations in the series. Only the WALL & VVS were never injured. At some pt & time the batting line up had to be adjusted to deal with injuries. Yr main strike bowler(ZK) is out after tking 2wks. If yr team is not prepared physically it will affect the other 2 components & it happened to India. India is still a strong team & there is no need to panic, not yet. Any patriot is a DANGEROUS MAN.

Posted by Naresh28 on (August 25, 2011, 12:03 GMT)

English batterrs and bowlers are tall. It is easy for them to face our bowlers. WHen our batters bat they are short and face steepling bounce. Thus in ENgland it helps them. The reverse happens in India. Indian are shorter and can bat comfortably whereas the tall suffer as they will be taken out Thru lower bounce balls. It is the reason why Dravid was okay in England. Someone like Rohit Sharma would have been a good bet in ENdgland. Of course there are exceptions like Sachin who counter with getting into position quickly, but Sachin always falls to LBW because of his height. So with waning reflexes he is getting out quicker. I like Aakash Chopra as an opener for tests.

Posted by NumberXI on (August 25, 2011, 11:41 GMT)

Some of the comments re. Sreesanth are a bit strange. Considering that the guy was India's fourth choice seamer - remember India opted for Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma in the first test - he has done creditably to outperform Ishant Sharma in the three tests they played together with a better average and strike rate. The results also do not do justice to how hard he kept running in even when England were piling on the runs. Unfortunately, though, it looks like Sreesanth will be one of the scapegoats of this series - the question is who else will go with him. Somehow one gets the feeling that neither Raina nor Harbhajan will be in that list.

Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 10:59 GMT)

If england needs to prove themselves in subcontinent to be the no. 1, why not India prove them selves in seaming wickets to claim no 1.....or rather to claim no 3 atleast....???? Did India prove themselves overseas when they were no 1...I doubt....I think this ranking system is flawed and need bit of tinkering.....

Posted by NuraSadu on (August 25, 2011, 10:26 GMT)

The loss of india in test matches is bcoz of the batting dept. in 2nd test india were ahead with england reeling at 124-8 in 50.2 overs. somehow the england innings was restricted to 221. our batsmen gave a weak response to the good effort by the bowlers by scoring a paltry 288 and handing over the confidence to ENG bowlers by letting them have a hat-trick. If IND has posted a 500 plus score then our bowlers wud have got the confidence and the series wud have had a different result. At least repectful. And I dunno whats Sree's role in ODI to have his picture in this article.

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