India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata, 4th day December 8, 2012

From magic to harsh reality for India at Eden


Eden Gardens is an iconic Indian venue. When Indian players and captains need a lifeline, they go there. When all else fails, you go to Eden. A lot happens in sport that defies logic, that falls in the realm of the magical. That's what makes us love sport. A lot of the magic in Indian cricket resides at Eden. Wristy batsmen from Hyderabad have rediscovered their timing here, tired spinners have found new life in those fingers, jaded captains have turned into geniuses. And the greatest comeback in Test history was enacted here.

There have been heartbreaks too - you don't need to look beyond that World Cup semi-final and the Test loss after having Pakistan at 26 for 6 on the first morning - but that comeback against Australia in 2000-01 is a seminal moment in Indian Test cricket. For it gave birth to India's greatest period in Test cricket. All the fight and adaptability and class that India showed in Test cricket over the next 10 years can be traced back to those two magical days at Eden.

It is poignant but also fitting that it has all come to an emphatic end at the same venue. Even those living in a fantasy world created by spin doctors they choose to surround themselves with can't turn their backs to this debacle. Sport is a lot about denying. About denying your physical limitations, strong opposition, the elements. You need to psyche yourself up. Openers need to tell themselves they will be all right against the new ball being hurled at them at close to 150kmph. Tennis players tell themselves they can last five hours in the Melbourne heat in January.

India, though, have lived in a different kind of denial for the last 18 months. In their minds they are still the world's No. 1 in Tests and should have won the World Twenty20 but for five minutes of rain. Somewhere down the line this team changed from one that was bitterly disappointed at coming back from South Africa with a 1-1 draw to one that was indifferent to two whitewashes, looking for excuses and not reasons.

It is ironic that it has taken a defeat at their field of dreams, where magic happens, to give them the reality check they desperately need. It was cold. It was logical. It was brutal. It was like VVS Laxman, a man renowned for defying logic, playing the most logical innings of his career, a nine-ball duck at the WACA as India lost inside three days.

Ashwin now averages more than 50 in this series; only Cheteshwar Pujara has done better among the Indians. However, that average is 10 units below his bowling average. Here is a bowler doing better than most of the batsmen in his side and yet not making up for the damage his insipid bowling has caused.

And how painful every blow must have been. They kept denying their shortcomings because they had a home record to fall back upon. In Mumbai, they were given a pitch where they used to always win. They lost. In Kolkata, they were given a pitch on which it used to be impossible to beat them. They are going to lose here too.

It was ironic too that R Aswhin took them into the final day, summing up through that late show of defiance all that is wrong with this team. Ashwin is an offspinner suited more to limited-overs cricket, but he became the fastest Indian to 50 wickets through home series against West Indies and New Zealand. He doesn't lack gumption, which showed in his batting in Australia where his was the third-best average among the Indians. With an unbeaten 83 full of shots proper batsmen play, full of the presence of mind to farm the strike to protect the lesser batsmen, he has not promised magic; he has further drilled home the reality.

Ashwin now averages more than 50 in this series; only Cheteshwar Pujara has done better among the Indians. However, that average is 10 units below his bowling average. His bowling - rightly or wrongly - was the source of much of India's confidence that they would beat England at home. Just imagine, here is a bowler doing better than most of the batsmen in his side and yet not making up for the damage his insipid bowling has caused.

Had this happened at some other ground, India would still have Eden Gardens to fall back on. Why, as recently as yesterday Pragyan Ojha said he was confident the "guys will do well" because "we have a good record at this ground". It is good that the spirit of Eden turned its back on India.

When he trapped Zaheer Khan lbw, Steven Finn showed the renowned master of reverse swing how it is done effectively nowadays. The oldest man in the team, going through the worst phase of his own career, is showing half the side how to keep their chin up and field. The spinners are outspun, the quicks outswung, the batsmen 'outpatienced', and the fielders exposed. There is nowhere to hide, there are mirrors everywhere.

Between Kolkata then and Kolkata now, India have given their fans much joy in Test cricket. They got rid of the well-earned reputation of being poor travellers. Painstakingly and through foresight and planning, they earned India respect in Test cricket. It was good while it lasted.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfo on December 11, 2012, 0:24 GMT

    Anyone remember how Ravi Shastri started as a no. 11 and then became an opener. How hard would it be to change Ashwin from a no 8 to a no. 6? He plays like vvs anyway.

  • Blue on December 10, 2012, 17:08 GMT

    Front-Foot-Lunge what happened in the summer of 2012?

  • mo on December 10, 2012, 16:56 GMT

    ashwin could be the all-rounder we've long been looking for! he should not be considered a stock bowler. we need another wicket-taking bowler in his place but he should stay in the team as an all-rounder, batting as high as #6, perhaps. his batting has been consistently very good! ...and he has the heart for a fight! ...two rare qualities of his that make me say he should not be dropped from the test team!!! they should have him work on his fitness and improve his fielding (he is still young!) and he could become a phenomenal all-rounder very quickly!!!

  • Cricket on December 10, 2012, 12:48 GMT

    Sid, Zaheer is 34 and Tendulkar is 39 so how this make Zaheer the oldest man in the team?

  • ADitya on December 10, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    TILL NOW Round 6 day 3, My Ranji XI 2012 with batting order:

    1. Jiwanjot Singh (661 runs) 2. Akshath Reddy (530 runs) 3. Parthiv Patel(WK & C) (694 runs) 4. Ravindra Jadeja (794 runs & 21 wickets) 5. Hiken Shah (433 runs) 6. Manprit Juneja (571 runs) 7. Parvez Rassol (436 runs & 22 wickets) 8. Rishi Dhawan (374 runs & 32 wickets) 9. Rakesh Dhruv (340 runs & 20 wickets) 10. Shahbaz Nadeem (26 wickets) 11. Sandeep Sharma (29 wickets)

    other Reserves 12. Paras Dogra (617 runs) 13. Siddarth Kaul (28 wickets) 14. Ishwar Pandey (29 wickets) 15. Yashpal Singh (652 runs)

    What all of u think about it against ENGLAND ? I think much competitive than current indian team & might be 3-0 we would have as spin option of Jadeja, Rassol,Nadeem & Dhruv + Batting Depth + good young fast bowler + batsman who implement them & looks for big score.

  • Dummy4 on December 10, 2012, 11:16 GMT

    The difference is in the attitude, English team wants to win as a team and they will do anything for that, they are ready to drop Broad, discipline Pieterson and above all work on their bowling. Mushtaq Ahmed, Flower and Gooch are ways ahead of the Indian Contigent. Indian team is playing on past memories, they need to change, the coach at this level must provide inputs and that is simply not happening, see how badly the spinners bowled session after session, no one seems to be telling them, Virat Kohli is playing outside off, he should be guided, instead we are talking of Rahul Dravid and VVS.

  • Kamran on December 10, 2012, 10:56 GMT

    A very insightful article, indeed there's much to think about. india need to understand that it's batsmen who are their strength. Bolwing has hardly been the winner for them but actually the pressure createed by their batsmen on the opponents. They score big and then beat teams under pressure which gets them wickets, so I reckon if they can even sort out their batting woes, their bowlers would not have to do much to win them matches. Having said that, nothing should be taken away from the gutsy england players, when they realised they would only get turners here, they decided to compete in india's own zone and not whine about the picth conditions.

  • krishnan on December 10, 2012, 10:41 GMT

    Hero worship and complacency have damaged the reputation, once again proved that we are only paper tigers. Received the taste of their own medicine (tailor made pitches to suit Indian spinners, finally killed the image of India as a real test playing nation. At least in future, let us prepare neutral pitches to last for five days and at the same time result oriented too.

  • subra on December 10, 2012, 10:08 GMT

    I agree with siddharth. Indian team is on transit as senior batsmen and bowlers have lkft and this has exposed the middle order where SRT is struggling-as he was ably supported by Dravid Lakshman and others. The openers have also failed in some ways as they could not capitalise the good wickets to strat.The bowling depends only on 2 spinners-if they have off day then the opponents start hammering the bowling.The Fast bowlers in general have not done very well except in patches. we need genuine fast bowlers and that is a fact will not chnage -our weakness es to be accepted honestly and look for remedies-no bale culture. My own feeling is SRT will go after Nagpore test himself as he has seen the writing on the wall very clearly that he is a spent force and nothing more to offer for the team .I adore him but he has done his best and time to say Bye with due respect to the countrys need

  • Sriram on December 10, 2012, 10:00 GMT

    Ashwin has not performed in these two tests, period. But then he is the best choice going around now. Its a huge learning curver for him, both this England tour and the tour to Austraila. Even Jumbo and Bhajji dont have great stats overseas. Give this guy a break, some time to develop to the demands of International Cricket. Our spin cupboard especaillay offspin is bare. the only other offspin prospect is Jalaj Saxena who also is in early career in domestic cricket. Ashwin has shown guts, and attitude. All he needs is some comfort in that dressing room and belief from selectors and fans to develop. I'd say drop him from T20 so can go back to Ranji and work on new skills. The problem with our schedules is never allows players to return to Ranji and work on weakness. Good luck Ashwin. I believe in your abilities.

  • No featured comments at the moment.