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

England's dominance has stark lessons for India

England's anticipated victory in Kolkata carries a serious message that their opponents should heed

Such will be the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the defeated that it would be easy to overlook the performance of the anticipated victor in Kolkata. If it had not been for their victory in Mumbai this might be hailed as one of England's greatest overseas performances. As it is, it is likely to be remembered only as their best in a week.

This has been a highly impressive display. For England to come to a country where their record is so poor and still to win would be a mighty achievement.

They had won one of their previous 12 Tests in India before this tour, their debacle against Pakistan's spinners in the UAE had extended a run of failure in Asia against all but Bangladesh that stretched back to the start of the century, they lost the first Test heavily and a new Test captain has lost the toss in all three Tests played on pitches designed to help the opposition.

If they clinch the series in Nagpur - and it would take a strong reversal of fortune to deny them - it must be rated among their greatest series victories.

The obvious architects of the success to date have been Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Monty Panesar. But there have been other valuable contributors: Matt Prior has produced several fine innings and kept far better than his opposite number; James Anderson has bowled with discipline when the pitch has given him nothing and with incision when presented with any help; Nick Compton has ensured solid starts to most innings and Graeme Swann has bowled splendidly.

But one of the more encouraging aspects of this performance from an England perspective is that there should be more to come. Panesar, struggling with his line in particular, has been nowhere near his best in the second innings, while Steven Finn's huge potential was only displayed when he produced the fastest spell of the match on the fourth afternoon and generated considerable reverse swing. The sense remains that Samit Patel, at No. 6, is keeping the spot warm for someone else, too.

India's excellent home record bears repeating. They have not lost a series at home since 2004, when Australia were the victors, and not since 2000, when they played South Africa, have they lost two Tests in a row at home. They are not a poor side; they have been made to look poor by an England side who, stung by recent setbacks, have approached this tour with renewed vigour.

England had become complacent. Maybe not consciously and maybe not by a huge margin. But, after the Ashes success of 2010-11 and the home series victory over India in 2011, a little of the hunger had left the side and the side's management. The bowlers lost their nip, the fielders lost their reliability and the batsmen lost their way. It was apparent at the World Cup which followed the Ashes and it was apparent by the way they were caught underprepared at the start of the series against Pakistan. The wake-up call of the UAE might, in the long-term, be the best thing that could have happened to them.

"That series in the UAE was a massive eye opener for us," Finn said at the close of the fourth day, with England only one India wicket, and a small run chase, away from victory. "We've worked very hard since then. We've been sitting here saying we've worked hard to adapt our games to these conditions and it's now it's starting to pay dividends.

"But let's not be presumptuous. If we win tomorrow we're only going to be 2-1 up in the series and it's important going into the fourth Test that we have no complacency and we keep working and keep looking to get better. That's a great point about this England side - we're always looking to get better.

"At the beginning of the day, if you'd have said India would be 30 ahead with nine wickets down, I'm sure we'd have taken it. That last hour and 45 minutes was a little bit frustrating for us. Ashwin played very well. That bit of rearguard resistance was excellent batting, he played the reverse swing very well and he was patient, took runs he when he needed to and put trust in the man at the other end. It was good batting."

Perhaps in the long-term India might reflect that this series was a blessing in disguise. They will hate to hear it, but India could learn rather a lot from England and, just as it was only defeat after defeat that provoked a change in the way English cricket at every level was run, so it might prove similarly motivating for India. After all, at some stage on day five, they will have lost 10 of their last 18 Tests.

Whereas India are persevering with star players who are clearly past their sell-by date, England dropped their vice-captain and golden boy, Stuart Broad when it became clear that his form had dipped.

Whereas the England team management had the authority or bravery to drop Kevin Pietersen, rightly or wrongly, after it was decided he was unsettling the dressing room, there seems to be no-one in the India team management who has the authority or bravery to ensure the whole team turns up fit enough to play elite international sport and ensure they work harder on their fielding.

Whereas the likes of Andrew Strauss and Nasser Hussain, who had just scored a century in his 96th Test, resigned without pity or sentimentalism, the admiration for personal milestones and personal heroes which pervades in Indian cricket has seen players selected well past their sell-by dates and, as a consequence, the progress of new players blocked.

Most importantly, whereas in England one man, Andy Flower, has been given the power and the responsibility for the team, in India it is often hard to understand who is in control. While Duncan Fletcher will almost certainly be one of those held to account, unless he was given the power to change things, it seems unfair to hold him responsible.

The margins between these teams are as big as it has appeared at times over the last fortnight. Had India caught their catches and England not completed their run-outs, the results might be different. But it would be foolish to dismiss those facts as quirks of fortune. They came, in part at least, because of the disparity in hard work and fitness between these two teams. The main difference between a side that has exceeded expectations and one that has failed to do itself justice would appear to be motivation.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Par on December 11, 2012, 17:19 GMT

    Oops. the sarcasm was lost on too many of you ! @JG2704, Orwell, Sooper, Phoenix .. Did I sound that "Head stuck in sand" ? well maybe tons of "indian fans" do write like I did !!!

    @ Sachin-vssfan, haha! that seems like the way we will be going in near future !Buying spree till the test cricket is dead and we will be playing world series with final game of T05 between Mumbai hungamas and Chennai Bahamas! (yeah T20 will be too boring and technical by then, T05 with cheerleaders on the pitch after every delivery followed by minimum 30 advertisements will be the norm then. Sachin will still play and Zaheer will bowl 1 over of the game, giving beautiful demonstration of toe crushing yorkers and reverse swing with 1 over old ball)

    So yes, bring on the englishers and the sarcasm missers!

  • Allim on December 9, 2012, 10:48 GMT

    @Venkatr_11 - What an ignorant and childish person you are. You talk about knowing a lot about cricket but seriously your opinions are naive, bitter and pretty pathetic.

    As you keep mentioning yes England lost to Pakistan & South Africa - they were the better teams in those series and easily have the two best attacks in world cricket. And if form says anything they will probably both beat India quite comfortably in the upcoming series.

    The praise people are heaping on England is deserved - to show the character to win test matches when you have lost such an important toss is a huge achievement. Rather than bemoaning what an average team they are maybe you could just admit your own team failings?

    You keep mentioning after Nagpur, after Napgpur - who cares about Nagpur? If the series is drawn that is still a huge blow for India and their "proud" home record.

    Venkatr_11 - You are what is wrong with Indian cricket and your'e why even us neutrals are laughing at India and you.

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2012, 10:25 GMT

    since May 2011, superstar batting averages:-

    gambhir 27.7 tendulkar 32.79 dhoni 30.67 shewag 33.26

    and you wonder why you lose? The tracks in Eng and Aus were very flat, Cook got 294 on one of them and Clarke 329*. I'm not even going to go there with the likes of Yuvraj or Raina or most of the bowling attack. Even if India draw 2-2 with England it will keep the illusion going for a bit longer but sooner or later you'll get stuffed by NZ or Bangladesh and then what? Pujara, Kohli, Ashwin (as a batsman), Yadav have shown real promise in the last 18 months so why not bring in some more?

  • Amjad on December 9, 2012, 10:23 GMT

    I have emence respect for Dobbel but dont agree with him belittling Pak's achievement at UAE and worse, indirectly bracketing india's bowling attack with that of Pakistan. Over the course of three test matches, Eng came very close to winning in the 2nd test but it was the same story in the third test as it was in the first one. Maybe Eng have improved since UAE and they are a formidable side no doubt but thats all ifs and buts till we meet next time. Pak is no India!

  • Valavan on December 9, 2012, 10:10 GMT

    @Ven61, said it exactly, that i was waiting as an english fan, they must rectify that in Nagpur and this is an eye opener. Wish england get the glory of 1984/85. cricinfo please publish.

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2012, 9:45 GMT

    England nay Baja dee India key. ... dafli? what a shameful add was that and I am sure the director and producer must've been muttering the statement other way. great game by the captain cook and his men congratulations from Pakistan

  • John on December 9, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    @Dhanno/venkatr_11 - If you are loathed to give England any credit , fair enough , but at least then admit to your own side's failings. If England are a poor or ordinary side side and they are winning then it must be down to India being poor .

  • JIGNESH on December 9, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    There is saying in Gujarat, India, that "Kuva ma hoy to Hawada ma Pani aave". That means if we have water in our well, we can transfer it to other places. Team India's coach who is happened to be a failed cricketer, who has played only 7 ODIs in his entire career making runs with strike rate of 66, who is failed to make a single century in very low level Zimbabwe domestic tournament despite playing 198 innings of 111 matches, and grabbed only 215 wickets-less than 2 wickets per match in ZIM domestics, who is over-weight too. Now what will this coach can help the Indian batsmen who carry 50+ averages in tests, and 40+ in ODIs. Sehwag's strike rate in tests(82), a lot more than his coach's ODIs strike rate. Gambhir's 90% of last 48 innings ended giving an easy catch behind the stumps or sleep cordon. Why this coach haven't told him yet to change his batting tactics. After each shot playing by Gambhir, he comes forward 3 steps trying to take run, even in tests. What this coach's doing?

  • John on December 9, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    @Dhanno on (December 09 2012, 04:22 AM GMT) RE "I dont think england should be given any credit, this is just one off result lets wait till nagpur. And if nothing works, when IPL comes, lets not give contract to Pietersen, Swann, Finn etc. The revenge will be ours at last." - Very mature comments there. And a one off result means just that so would you maybe rephrase it and call it a two off result. And re not giving those players IPL contracts , well Indian fans love KP so you'd be denying your own fans on that account and Swann and Finn have not played IPL and all you'd be doing with such actions would be denying those players some extra lucre but at the same time making the ECB chiefs happier?

  • John on December 9, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    @venkatr_11 on You seem to be hugely in denial there. BTW - I was commenting throughout the Pak and SA and SL (where we drew and weren't whiplashed as you describe it) debacles for my side. The author intimated that he thought Sachin should not be in the side and that his inclusion was doing India more harm than good and mentions the 2 Eng players because of the timing of their retirement and not because he thinks they are up there with Sachin. Ponting could also be used as an example - maybe a better one as he is of similar quality. England aren't a great side by any means and to me your comments indicate that you are happy with being 2-1 down against England whereas your fellow Indian fans see the bigger picture.

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