India in England, 2011 August 18, 2011

From one-man bands to world-beating team

English cricket used to be about lone talents shining forth despite the chaos of the system. Now, though, it's all about the collective
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What on earth must Graham Gooch make of all this English success? I mean, honestly, deep down, beyond all the satisfaction he can take for the success of his charges and the explosion of "daddy hundreds" during his time as England batting coach?

At some stage in the next few months, and maybe even this week, Alastair Cook will first equal and then surpass his mentor's England tally of 20 Test centuries, while others such as Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss are closing in as well. But whereas Gooch had to battle on into his 40s to rack up such a tally, his protégé Cook looks set to do so a full three years shy of his 30th birthday.

When asked about this prospect during his Edgbaston epic last week, Cook conceded it would be a "shame" to overhaul the great man - a curious choice of words, even allowing for the hero worship that has been a part of the rise of Essex's latest batting superstar. Presumably such sympathy was not to blame for Cook's failure to emulate Gooch in becoming England's first triple-centurion since that 333 against India in 1990, but nevertheless his reticence touched on a curious truth about the English cricketing psyche.

The greatness of Gooch - and David Gower, Ian Botham, and even, if you encounter an England fan of a very particular vintage, Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart - was a greatness that ran counter to everything that currently makes the national team tick. It was a greatness that enabled them to stand aloof from the chaos that constituted English cricket in the 1980s and 1990s, and carve themselves a niche in spite of every imaginable obstacle.

It's a different world these days. Everyone with England ambitions is obliged to buy into the wider team ethic, whether it's Samit Patel being barred from selection until he shows a willingness to adhere to the squad's exacting fitness standards, or a Star Wars-masked Graeme Swann leading the celebrations after England had risen to No. 1 in the world rankings - the sort of celebrations that simply wouldn't have happened 20 years ago, when many of the players would have to drive off to a county one-day game in the hours after a match had been completed.

"No individual is bigger than the team," is the message that Andrew Strauss was repeating on the eve of the Oval Test, but back in the day, the few players who did stand out did so precisely because they were bigger than the team - and out of necessity, given the circumstances in which they were operating. These men were giants among pygmies, tough cookies in a pack of endlessly battered biscuits; players who were able to make their mark on the English game even while most of their contemporaries were being crushed by the iniquities of an outdated and outclassed system.

If it wasn't the brilliance of their opponents that cut these players down to size - from the Windies pace quartets, via Wasim and Waqar, and on through McGrath and Warne - it was the ineptitude of their team-mates, who lacked the skills or gumption to put up a stiff enough fight. Failing that, the whims of the selectors would generally be to blame, for churning through, say, 29 players for a six-Test Ashes series in 1989. Or ditching, say, a spinner for collecting four wickets at 80.25 in the first three Tests of a series.

However, towering above all else would be the sheer lunacy of the English domestic structure, in which the success of the England team was at all times secondary to the requirements of the counties, who, until the advent of central contracts, owned the players' registrations. A batsman such as Atherton would play twice as many Championship games for Lancashire as Tests for England in any given season (12 to six in 1995), and if a fast bowler such as Angus Fraser failed to do likewise for Middlesex, it was inevitably because he had gone down injured in the process.

"No individual is bigger than the team," is the message that Andrew Strauss was repeating on the eve of the Oval Test, but back in the day, the few players who did stand out did so precisely because they were bigger than the team - and out of necessity given the circumstances in which they were operating

Such a cocktail of mismanagement made cricket-watching in the 1980s and 1990s a very different experience to that which is rapidly becoming the norm in the 2010s. "The days of English cricket being a bit of a laughing stock have gone, and hopefully they have gone for good," said Strauss at The Oval. "It is for all sorts of reasons, not just our play on the park but also because the structure and the set-ups have improved dramatically. We have always had very good players in England. Now the structure makes it easier for us to get the best out of them."

This week the overwhelming expectation is that England will complete their fourth win out of four in the series, and so condemn India to their first series whitewash against them since 1974. And if that does indeed come to pass, it will be England's 20th victory in the two and a half years since Strauss and Andy Flower were thrown together as a partnership, in the wake of the KP-Moores debacle.

Aside from being a neat landmark in itself, that total would equal the number of victories that England managed in the whole of the 1980s, and one more than they achieved in a particularly bitter 10 years from 1986 to 1996 (or Tetley Bitter, to namecheck the England sponsors who became synonymous with failure in the early 90s). In that period the decline of the toughest cookie of the lot, Botham, created a personality vacuum that only the dogmatically driven Gooch came close to filling during his three years as captain from 1990 to 1993.

Aside from the runs he scored, however, Gooch's era is best remembered for his falling out with Gower - a clash of ideologies that summed up the sport's failure to bring a professional rigour to an essentially amateur set-up. To watch him now in the nets, beasting and cajoling his young charges from dawn to dusk, is to be reminded that Gooch had the right idea all along, that playing for England was a privilege that demanded a heightened level of responsibility. And yet, such were the muddled priorities of the era - as well as the delightful quirkiness of Gower's Tiger Moth escapade, which left their relationship beyond salvation - that it was Gooch who ended up being painted as the villain and killjoy.

The directionless fiasco of the national team made for a peculiarly solipsistic viewing experience, with England's fans often finding themselves rooting for one particular favoured player rather than the collective shower, because that at least might enable a measure of glory before the onset of inevitable defeat. In times of duress, when England were 45 for 4 in the follow-on, it would be an improbably rewarding consolation to know that your personal hero was still there fighting the good fight.

At the same time, such an ingrained pessimism arguably made the high days higher. You did not need to own a new-fangled satellite dish to feel every glorious moment at Sabina Park in 1989-90, or at Adelaide five years later, while Gooch's astonishing 154 not out at Headingley in 1991, in which he carried his bat for 61% of England's total, epitomises to this day the era to which it belongs. Had that particular individual not been bigger than both his team and his opponents, the match would not have been a contest, let alone a triumph.

If cricket is a game of partnerships, then the lesson of that era is that too many of England's greats were left to man the fort alone - and when you glance down the list of top Test run-scorers, you can always spot an Englishman for the paucity of his batting average. There are mitigating circumstances - in particular the juiciness of English wickets - but nevertheless Gooch's mark, 42.58, is some 10 points lower than most of the names with whom he has been immortalised, while Alec Stewart - who finished his career as most defeated player in Test history with 54 losses in 133 games - is the only man in the top 20 to average less than 40.

Such slim pickings are a world away from the situation now facing England's finest, and by extension their supporters. Within the next few years, with Cook, Pietersen and Strauss all on the march, there could well be a host of contemporary names vying for Gooch's England record of 8900 Test runs, and sporting averages more befitting of the company they'll be keeping. Somewhere along the way, the exquisite torture of hope that epitomised the 1980s and 90s has been replaced by the dull thud of expectation. It's a thud that sounds much like the thwack of tired leather on broad willow in an England nets session near you.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bumsonseats on August 20, 2011, 19:33 GMT

    funny england during the 70s and 80s were the only team playing 5/6 tests home and away against the west indies playing their pomp. so i dont see why its a problem now when they r poor. dpk

  • LivingDead on August 20, 2011, 15:29 GMT

    Since, 2007, India has played (not including current Eng series):

    Total tests = 48 Away = 26 Against Bang and WIndies = 7

    Lets compare it to England:

    Total tests = 58 Away tests = 26 Against Bang/Windies = 15

    So India played 54% of tests away, and 85% of them against strong teams. England played only 45% of tests away, and only 74% against strong teams.

  • on August 19, 2011, 22:11 GMT

    Indian fans are worried that Cook may seriously threaten Sachins final run and centuries tally by the end of his career. Sachin will probably have a better average and may be the better player, but Cook may end up with the numbers on his side. But its great to see our batsmen going big after they get to 100. Centuries by 1 or more in the last 9 games and 150+ scores in 7 of them.

  • Love-Crick on August 19, 2011, 21:40 GMT

    @mensan, Do not throw around one side of the story to cook-up your absurd theory. I remember that IND/NZ series very well. NZ batting had done equally bad -- in-spite of home conditions -- and they won very, very narrowly just due to good fortunes. About bullying and all, you seem to have views of a high school-er. Grow up, this is a real world of millions of $$ of high stake games -- there is no Good vs Evil, everything is in-between.

  • InnocentGuy on August 19, 2011, 20:30 GMT

    Patience my dear Indian fans, patience. We will have our revenge. Everything goes a full circle, however impossible it may seem at one point. Example: England's resurgence. In 2007, they suffered a 5-0 whitewash and even Bermuda could have thrashed them then. It looked like another 347 years would pass before England could come up with a half decent team that can give an U-19 Zimbabwean cricket team a run for their money. But in 3 years they recovered. And spectacularly. Congratulations to them. They have absolutely steamrolled India here. Revel in all the glory while you can, poms. For it's a given, we WILL hit back. Team India, just channel this humiliation into building a better team and strike upon the English with great vengeance! :)

  • voma on August 19, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    Hatsforbats . @ fair enough i take your point , . Those batsmen you listed were the creme de la creme of that era . I doff my hat to you

  • Rahulbose on August 19, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    Not so long ago Indians were writing how their team has moved on from the era of individual briliance to team excellence. Is this now the standard response to yur team reaching the top spot in ICC ranking?

  • on August 19, 2011, 4:53 GMT

    @Vichan: Well well welll, it seems you got a little hot under the collar, didn't you...? Well, two things, and both your inventions for that matter. Commonwealth Games: We pipped you in that in the latest edition Cricket World Cup: India:2 England: 0. Both the games are your inventions mind you!!! And talking about football, EPL is the biggest football event after the World Cup, and you have just ONE Football World Cup to Show???? My word... And, maybe, if you would have never come to our shores some 300 years ago, the story would have been different! But thats only speculation.

  • on August 19, 2011, 2:01 GMT

    I started watching cricket in 1990 (with Gooch's 333 my first real memory), and then watched England get dismantled by Ambrose and Walsh, Wasim and Waqar, and then Australia in the next 3 summers.

    Throughout this period I too found myself thinking "well the team's going to lose again, but at least Thorpe got a fifty", or looking at the England batting averages on the 1993/4 (Lara 375) tour to the West Indies, and consoling myself that at least Atherton and Stewart had reasonable averages (about 40).

    I hadn't realized that other people were searching for the same small mercies.

    And this of course explains why English fans were quite so jubilant in 2005 and even more so now, as we find with great delight and bemusement that we have a genuinely good team. It barely seems real.

  • HatsforBats on August 19, 2011, 1:36 GMT

    @ Voma: I was commenting on the premise that the batting records of England greats suffered from "the juiciness of English pitches" or a lack of support. My point was that non-English players (Crowe, Malik, Miandad, Border, Boon, Waugh) during the 80's-90's have very good records in England against quality bowlers like Botham & Willis. England had very good batsmen during that period, but the epithet "great" gets thrown around a bit too much.

  • bumsonseats on August 20, 2011, 19:33 GMT

    funny england during the 70s and 80s were the only team playing 5/6 tests home and away against the west indies playing their pomp. so i dont see why its a problem now when they r poor. dpk

  • LivingDead on August 20, 2011, 15:29 GMT

    Since, 2007, India has played (not including current Eng series):

    Total tests = 48 Away = 26 Against Bang and WIndies = 7

    Lets compare it to England:

    Total tests = 58 Away tests = 26 Against Bang/Windies = 15

    So India played 54% of tests away, and 85% of them against strong teams. England played only 45% of tests away, and only 74% against strong teams.

  • on August 19, 2011, 22:11 GMT

    Indian fans are worried that Cook may seriously threaten Sachins final run and centuries tally by the end of his career. Sachin will probably have a better average and may be the better player, but Cook may end up with the numbers on his side. But its great to see our batsmen going big after they get to 100. Centuries by 1 or more in the last 9 games and 150+ scores in 7 of them.

  • Love-Crick on August 19, 2011, 21:40 GMT

    @mensan, Do not throw around one side of the story to cook-up your absurd theory. I remember that IND/NZ series very well. NZ batting had done equally bad -- in-spite of home conditions -- and they won very, very narrowly just due to good fortunes. About bullying and all, you seem to have views of a high school-er. Grow up, this is a real world of millions of $$ of high stake games -- there is no Good vs Evil, everything is in-between.

  • InnocentGuy on August 19, 2011, 20:30 GMT

    Patience my dear Indian fans, patience. We will have our revenge. Everything goes a full circle, however impossible it may seem at one point. Example: England's resurgence. In 2007, they suffered a 5-0 whitewash and even Bermuda could have thrashed them then. It looked like another 347 years would pass before England could come up with a half decent team that can give an U-19 Zimbabwean cricket team a run for their money. But in 3 years they recovered. And spectacularly. Congratulations to them. They have absolutely steamrolled India here. Revel in all the glory while you can, poms. For it's a given, we WILL hit back. Team India, just channel this humiliation into building a better team and strike upon the English with great vengeance! :)

  • voma on August 19, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    Hatsforbats . @ fair enough i take your point , . Those batsmen you listed were the creme de la creme of that era . I doff my hat to you

  • Rahulbose on August 19, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    Not so long ago Indians were writing how their team has moved on from the era of individual briliance to team excellence. Is this now the standard response to yur team reaching the top spot in ICC ranking?

  • on August 19, 2011, 4:53 GMT

    @Vichan: Well well welll, it seems you got a little hot under the collar, didn't you...? Well, two things, and both your inventions for that matter. Commonwealth Games: We pipped you in that in the latest edition Cricket World Cup: India:2 England: 0. Both the games are your inventions mind you!!! And talking about football, EPL is the biggest football event after the World Cup, and you have just ONE Football World Cup to Show???? My word... And, maybe, if you would have never come to our shores some 300 years ago, the story would have been different! But thats only speculation.

  • on August 19, 2011, 2:01 GMT

    I started watching cricket in 1990 (with Gooch's 333 my first real memory), and then watched England get dismantled by Ambrose and Walsh, Wasim and Waqar, and then Australia in the next 3 summers.

    Throughout this period I too found myself thinking "well the team's going to lose again, but at least Thorpe got a fifty", or looking at the England batting averages on the 1993/4 (Lara 375) tour to the West Indies, and consoling myself that at least Atherton and Stewart had reasonable averages (about 40).

    I hadn't realized that other people were searching for the same small mercies.

    And this of course explains why English fans were quite so jubilant in 2005 and even more so now, as we find with great delight and bemusement that we have a genuinely good team. It barely seems real.

  • HatsforBats on August 19, 2011, 1:36 GMT

    @ Voma: I was commenting on the premise that the batting records of England greats suffered from "the juiciness of English pitches" or a lack of support. My point was that non-English players (Crowe, Malik, Miandad, Border, Boon, Waugh) during the 80's-90's have very good records in England against quality bowlers like Botham & Willis. England had very good batsmen during that period, but the epithet "great" gets thrown around a bit too much.

  • HatsforBats on August 19, 2011, 0:47 GMT

    @ big_al_81: ah right, I misunderstood. I would put Gooch right up there though. My point was: SRT was already an established star in the 90's before Lax/Dravid came along, and Kallis was the rock upon which SA revolved for much of his early career. Poor Lara is self explanatory. Lara & SRT are genuine greats, you'd be happy to pick either of them, I'd take Lara though, just for the show.

  • Chase_HQ on August 19, 2011, 0:39 GMT

    what a fantastic article! sums up so much disappointment being an England cricket fan in the 1990s. Always a new dawn around the corner, and players you knew were able but never seemed to deliver when it mattered. You could tell at the time something was happening in early 2000s when we started winning from 50/50 situations, or sometimes even positions of weakness. Something happened - the penny dropped so to speak. The likes of Hick and Ramprakash and perhaps Tufnell or even Malcolm would have succeeded in the present England side. Chris Lewis? Alex Tudor? The mind boggles. So much wasted ability.

  • mensan on August 18, 2011, 23:47 GMT

    I would praise ECB. Well done for making BETTER pitches to get the home advantage. I remember when New Zealand shredded India to pieces in the fateful home series of 2002-03 by making seaming wickets. NZ won both tests (with India making 161, 121, 99 and 154 in the four innings) and one dayers 5-2. BCCI rebuked NZC and threatened of dire consequences. By the time India landed again in NZ after a 6 year absence, NZC had accepted BCCI bullying position in world cricket. They "chose" not to make seaming pitches this time just to please BCCI. The result was NZ tamely losing the 3-test series 1-0 and one day series 3-1 on subcontinent like pitches. ECB deserves credit for not succombing to the bullying BCCI (and so called huge TV market!!) and making pitches which suited the home side more.

  • Herath-UK on August 18, 2011, 22:01 GMT

    Kudos to England;when Mahela Jayawardene claimed in early summer that England is No. one team,how right he was.All agree now that Sri Lanka should have toured in the late summer than India as they could have given a better contest with the sun on their back.What I see the main ingredient for English success is their all round ability down the order who did pull the team out of trouble in many a critical stage leading to victories later;the batting ability of Prior(who can be regarded as the number one keeper because Sanga does not keep wickets in Test cricket now),Broad ,Bresnan,Swan,and even Anderson has contributed this team success more than appreciated. Ranil Herath -Kent

  • cloudmess on August 18, 2011, 21:22 GMT

    I am an English supporter, whose second favourite team has always been India for a number of reasons. But I wish the Indian supporters would not swamp forums like this, adding bitter, irrelevant and totally ill thought-out opinions to an interesting article. The comment about Cook having not yet proved himself v SA & Australia had to be seen to be believed.

  • Valavan on August 18, 2011, 19:18 GMT

    @Madhu Vamsi, Cooks Stats for you:

    Ashes 2010/11 in Australia - 766 runs at 127.66 Ave in 7 innings from 5 Tests. Vs SA in 2009/10 in SA - 287 runs at 41.00 in 6 innings from 4 Tests.

    What bites you more, what more COOK should do to prove his worthy run maker.

  • Valavan on August 18, 2011, 19:10 GMT

    Comon Guys, whats the hype about England winning in SA. Take a look at statistics: (1) England Vs SA in 2003 in England - 5 Tests - Result: 2 - 2. (2) England Vs SA in 2004/05 in SA - 5 Tests - Result: 2 - 1 - Winner: England. (3) England Vs SA in 2008 in England - 4 Tests - Result:2 - 1 - Winner: SA. (4) England Vs SA in 2009/10 in SA - 4 Test - Result: 1 -1. OVERALL 18 Tests England:6, SA:6, Drawn:6.

    At the same time 4 ODI series 2003 in England - Winner: England in Natwest triangular series involving SA. 2004/05 in SA - Winner: SA by 4 - 2. 2008 in England - Winner: Eng by 4 - 0. 2009/10 in SA - Winner: Eng by 2 - 1.

    Why English haters hype SA if England has reasonably good contest in both ODIs and Tests Vs SA between 2001 - 2010. Anyone can check the match/series archive to check if my stats are wrong. This England team has achieved the goal of test no.1, its all about how they maintain it. For ENGLISH HATERS, LOOK AT STATISTICS.

  • voma on August 18, 2011, 18:31 GMT

    Hatsforbats , are you having a laugh . Oh yeah players like Tendulkar , Kallis . Had to face the great West Indian bowlers , or Lillee and Thomo from OZ . In that era there were plenty of decent bowlers around , taking wickets with ease ! . God knows how many runs David Gower or Ian Botham would get today .

  • DazTaylor on August 18, 2011, 17:45 GMT

    Some quite unbelieveable comments on this thread. @CricFan78. One series win? Try 8 in the last 9. And the blip was a 1-1 draw AWAY to SA. Oh, and do try to differentiate between TEST cricket and ODI cricket. Two different games. @Nerk. Really? We are unbeaten in test series in SA for 10 years. India claimed number 1 for 2 years (and rightly so), yet remind me when they ever won in Australia. @Madhu Vamsi No offence, but your post is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I have ever read on this site. Did you not see his runs in the winter IN AUSTRALIA?!?!?!

  • harshthakor on August 18, 2011, 17:21 GMT

    The most deserving test world champions are England who destroyed the world's no 1 team like a bomber destroying an airbase.I have never seen an Engilsh team in my lifetime play with such a strong mental attitude and posessing such sound temperament.England posesses one of the finest match-winning combinations and have overpowered the strongest teams with supreme authority by beating Australia at home and India in the recent series.They have proved that cricket is not all about talent but about mental attitude and preparation.Even strong West Indian and Australian taems would have been proud of defeating India with this authority.

    For Cricket let us hope that England may grow into a truly great team like the past West Indian and Australian champions.Remember English teams led By Hutton ,Cowdrey, or even Mike Brearley did not display such mental toughness or reach such a peformance level.

  • vichan on August 18, 2011, 17:02 GMT

    Some of the comments responding to this article seem to be missing its point completely. Miller is not trying to keep ramming on about England being number 1, building an era of invincibility, matching the WI of the 1980s etc. He is merely making the contrast between England teams of the 1980s and 1990s, when the game was dying in that country and the national team were truly a laughing stock, to the respectability of the 2000s and the (undeniable by ANYONE) success of the 2010s so far. Anyone who has followed the England team through these three decades can understand the sentiments expressed...and feel even more satisfied by how well the administrators have managed to raise the game, like a phoenix reborn. Whether England remain number 1 or are knocked off the perch, I think it is safe to say that they will continue to remain a strength in the world game going forward. That did not always look like it could happen e.g. in 1999, so congratulations are rightly in order.

  • allblue on August 18, 2011, 16:56 GMT

    An archetypal Cricinfo comments section here. Despite the global recession, I bet manufacturers of churl are doing great business judging by the amount of churlishness displayed here. A nicely written article, but there's a lot more meat to come off this bone yet. There are the obvious start points of 2009 or 1999, but in reality it goes back further. To 1970 perhaps, when the then uber-reactionary MCC membership had to be bullied into not inviting apartheid South Africa to tour. Or perhaps back further still, to 1965 when the 'I' in ICC changed from Imperial to International, or even 1962 when the last Gentlemen v Players match took place. English cricket has been held back by the dead hand of a distant history, only recently has it joined the rest of the post-modern world in it's outlook. The current professional, (whisper it) multi-cultural team reflects England today just as the toff of yesteryear on tour with his batman reflected the sepia tinted past. Personally, I'm loving it!

  • vichan on August 18, 2011, 16:56 GMT

    @Jyotishman Sharma "I understand that success in sports is a thing that rarely comes to the English shores (fancy thinking about football?)" Heh, and how much success have India had in football? Or rugby? Or golf? Or at the Olympics? Or ANY other sport except for cricket? England are always there or there abouts in almost every major world sport - something not many other nations can claim. CERTAINLY not India, Mr. Sharma...

  • HumungousFungus on August 18, 2011, 16:04 GMT

    It was a genuine pleasure watching the likes of Gower, Lamb, Botham, then later Atherton, Gooch, and Robin Smith fighting lone hands through the 80's and 90's. Less of a pleasure watching Tests where our bowling 'attack' would read Small, Igglesden, Pringle, Capel, Atherton, and Gooch (for example)... England have been working towards this point since Duncan Fletcher took over in 1999, and are not likely to relinquish it any time soon... It is not unlikely that India, if things go badly in Australia - which they might because you still need to take 20 wickets to win a Test - will sack Fletcher, which would be a mistake. Equally, he might just get fed up of being unable to manage his team without BCCI interference and walk away. Either way, there are few better coaches out there... One last point: India may well win the ODI series. Know what? We don't care. England = Test Cricket. Anything else is a bonus. We care about ODI cricket about as much as India cares about Tests...

  • BalachandranMenon on August 18, 2011, 16:03 GMT

    Well every team goes through this up and down, This is part of every sports in an era where the westindies dominated, it was india who brought them down in the wordcup. From time to time a new winner is born, nobody has to feel dejected or elated just because England is doing well now. We have not forgotten how England got mauled by the Australians. Look how many catches were dropped by the Indian team, sometime the luck goes your way sometimes not. One has to agree that everything is going England's way for now. I don't really believe this team is all that strong as we are seeing in the series, 2 times they were almost done .. 124 for 8. But when a team is doing ok, everything goes with it. So don't worry England come to India, Go to SA and then let us see some good cricket from you.

  • big_al_81 on August 18, 2011, 15:44 GMT

    @ HatsforBats. I think you're right that some of England's greats weren't that great but I think Miller means they were greats to England supporters rather than all-time-greats of the game. I think Miller is also right however, about the confidence and support that come from batting in solid partnerships. I'm curious though - how exactly have Tendulkar and Kallis lacked support? Dravid, Laxman, Azharuddin, Kirsten, Cronje, Smith, de Villiers etc. all seem OK support to me! SO perhaps on the basis of this we should decide that Lara was better than Tendulkar since he played in a worse batting team - but I'm not really convinced you can get a cigarette paper between them - they're both genuine greats.

  • big_al_81 on August 18, 2011, 15:43 GMT

    @ HatsforBats. I think you're right that some of England's greats weren't that great but I think Miller means they were greats to England supporters rather than all-time-greats of the game. I think Miller is also right however, about the confidence and support that come from batting in solid partnerships. I'm curious though - how exactly have Tendulkar and Kallis lacked support? Dravid, Laxman, Azharuddin, Kirsten, Cronje, Smith, de Villiers etc. all seem OK support to me! SO perhaps on the basis of this we should decide that Lara was better than Tendulkar since he played in a worse batting team - but I'm not really convinced you can get a cigarette paper between them - they're both genuine greats.

  • on August 18, 2011, 14:48 GMT

    these celebrations can be understood as Heights of Success Drought for England Cricket team... Lot more thunder walks ahead. Celebrate till you gratify

  • aracer on August 18, 2011, 14:06 GMT

    LOL at all the bitter Indian fans feeling the need to write comments on an article about the England team! You've clearly not been following England recently (let alone in the 80s and 90s), but why let that stop you commenting on an article all about that? FYI, England have won rather more than one series, including doing rather better in Australia than India have ever managed (remember that was also expected to be tight at the start, and after the first couple of days looked like Australia were going to steamroll England again - actually you probably don't even remember the series result do you?) The reason the long term fans (the ones who supported England despite them being rubbish - no glory hunters here) are so excited is the contrast in fortunes, which might be clear if you read the article. Meanwhile if you think the title of world champions is in limbo,maybe you should check what the official rankings say - on the same basis it's been in limbo for the last couple of years!

  • Praxis on August 18, 2011, 14:05 GMT

    @Bang_La, whitewashing NZ seems so distant a memory now, isn't it? See, what's happening in Zimbabwe? Here Miller's got England on the top now.

  • Bang_La on August 18, 2011, 13:41 GMT

    Whats happening to your Bangladesh, O Father-of-Bangladesh-Cricket Miller?

  • Venkatb on August 18, 2011, 12:46 GMT

    While all credit is due for this English team, I am unsure if this team is necessarily the best of the past few decades. England's ascent has coincided with Australia's rebuilding phase and WI's permanent decline. India's recent rise to the top was perhaps biased towards a "home-friendly" schedule, except for a flash-in-a-pan Test win in SA after being decimated in the previous Test. Anyway, getting to England teams, I believe the teams of the 60s had the ingredients to be a #1, except for the usual suspects ahead, WI. With Boycott, Edrich, Cowdrey, Graveney, Dexter, D'Oliveira, Barrington, followed by a better bowling team led by Snow, Price, Underwood (to name a few), the 60s teams stood out. If the current English bowlers could match the dominance of the WI pace attacks of the past, or Lillee, Thommo, Walker from the mid-70s, that would make this team a credible but not necessarily a dominant # 1, as evidenced by the recent even series against SL, except for the first Test.

  • rahulcricket007 on August 18, 2011, 12:15 GMT

    zak was average before 2007 . during 2006-07 he played county cricket in england and learn variations in swing bowling . after then his return has been impressive . one year ago bcci stopped ojha & sehwag to take part in county cricket giving explanation that too much cricket is not good and will cause fatigue .i can't understand that why the same bcci organize meaningless ipl circus every year . bcci should give permission to the players who want to play in county cricket . they will learn good things from there . even sachin , dravid , laxman all have played county cricket that 's why they had good record on fast green pitches. so youngsters like raina , rohit , kohli , ishant should play a county session . so they can learn playing in swinging overcast conditions .

  • St00rt on August 18, 2011, 12:07 GMT

    @Bogie55, dude you completely missed my point. These players mentioned could've all stayed in SA and plied their trade but through various circumstances ended up in England. I don't dispute that and I completely admire the lives they've made for themselves and success theyve achieved over in the UK. Perhaps what I should've said was that their playing for England could be considered a potential loss for SA cricket. Anyway, I have better things to do than exchange pleasantries with a wet blanket such as yourself. Cheers tool

  • HatsforBats on August 18, 2011, 11:04 GMT

    I don't really understand the premise that the records of England's greats suffered from lack of support or juicy home pitches. The batting records of Kallis, Lara, & Tendulkar haven't suffered from a lack of support, and some modern greats have pretty good records in England. Maybe England's "greats" just weren't that great?

  • Dozzieus on August 18, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    so true, i had 2 personal heroes during the 1989 to 1999 - Graham Gooch and Robin Smith

  • on August 18, 2011, 10:13 GMT

    Hey, relax my English friends. I agree that you have thoroughly destroyed India. But this is not the last ever test series that will be played in cricketing history. I understand that success in sports is a thing that rarely comes to the English shores (fancy thinking about football?), but hey, there will be real tests. CALM DOWN. At least let the ODIs begin.

  • akshaysabnis on August 18, 2011, 10:00 GMT

    Congratulations England... Outplayed India in every sense.... But stop crucifying Indian Team. They were atop for two whole years.... And this is the first series loss in 3 years... what is the matter? Had a bad time. Will regenerate and recoup and redeliver.. Have seen the 1990's through and this is way better than those times...

  • Bogie55 on August 18, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    Pietersen, Trott and Prior have English parents, Strauss went to school in Abingdon, St00rt. All have worked hard in English and Welsh county cricket to achieve the excellence that warranted their selection. Stop being an idiot.

  • Herbet on August 18, 2011, 9:47 GMT

    " do not think Cook can play a big knock against quality bowling sides like South Africa or Australia"

    Possibly the very stupidest thing I have ever read anywhere in the world ever ever ever.

  • janik on August 18, 2011, 9:43 GMT

    "I do not think Cook can play a big knock against quality bowling sides like South Africa or Australia. Only time will tell.."

    I think we can safely assume that Madhu wasn't watching the most recent Ashes series, then. Cook's scores in that, for his information, were 67, 235*, 148, 23, 13, 82, 189. Series average 126.17 against Australia in Australia. Cook also got 118 against South Africa in Durban in 2009, during England's most recent tour there. He can clearly play big knocks against these sides, it's in the record books.

  • TheDoctor394 on August 18, 2011, 9:42 GMT

    @CricFan78 One series win? I think England's actually won a few lately, including a certain Ashes triumph.

  • turingfan on August 18, 2011, 9:37 GMT

    Stats are actually more dramatic than Andrew says. By my count, in the top 60 run scorers in tests, the only 3 with averages less than 40 are Stewart, Atherton, and Hussain! To be fair they were unusual that they had to face both Walsh/Ambrose and Warne etc. But still, remarkable and indicative.

  • St00rt on August 18, 2011, 8:49 GMT

    The bitter cynic in me would point to the outside influence of players such as Pietersen, Trott, Strauss & Prior (all SA born) as key elements to the success of England but that would be harsh. They have performed really well as a unit and deserve to be number 1 in the world. Getting to the top is easy. Staying there though, is the hard part and the chasing pack will be hunting them ferociously over the coming months.

  • liz1558 on August 18, 2011, 8:38 GMT

    Gooch, average 42.5. True not as high as Border, Gavaskar, Crowe, Gower or Miandad - the best players of his era, but Gooch is remembered in great company because his record against the great WI (West Indies rather than Women's Institute) bowling attacks was the best of the lot.

  • on August 18, 2011, 8:00 GMT

    Cook cannot be compared to great player like Graham Gooch. In the past players use to play cricket without one bouncer in a over. Cook scored his double hundred against poor bowling attack of India. Winning against test no 1 side is great feeling but Indian bowling is weak and added to that their batting too was struggling.. I do not think Cook can play a big knock against quality bowling sides like South Africa or Australia. Only time will tell..

  • Tom_Bowler on August 18, 2011, 7:40 GMT

    Magic! Judging from the first three comments if the mark of a team is the sourness of their detractors grapes then England are a pretty good one. Whinge on chaps, one day your teams may be able to stand up to England on the field, moaning like six year old girls is going to be about as good as it gets for you.

  • on August 18, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    CricFan78 - And I'm bored of people saying England aren't a good TEST team because they didn't do so well in the ODI world cup. They're different formats and players have skill sets that better suit one or the other.

  • Proteas123 on August 18, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    @ CricFan78 - You are right. England have won the series very well and have earned the number 1 ranking. This does not mean that they are the top team. Time will tell but the strength of all the teams in world cricket are comparable. Even pakistan have a realistic, although maybe not a good chance, of beating england in their next series. Can Eng beat Ind in Ind, maybe. A lot will depend on Swann but Ind play spinners so well I doubt he will dominate. SA had a good chance with Steyn and Harris, who seems to be more effective than attacking spinners against India, but still could not finish the job. Anderson is good but it is doubful that he could rip through India batting on a flat deck like Steyn did. World cricket should be very competitive for some time to come.

  • andysarmy on August 18, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    great article hits the nail emphatically on the head. those cavaliers of the game were wonderful personalities with their tiger moths and mullets, but winning is better. keep it up Mr Miller - english cricket is only as good as its critics.

  • ArUNN118 on August 18, 2011, 6:34 GMT

    @cricfan. thats true man..i don't think India is that bad a team.. if they can draw a series in SAF, then they can do this here too.. india played very very poorly.. but yes, england is a very good team and is a better test team than India.. but they are not the best.. the poor performance in the last WC proves it big time! but i hope India have learnt a big lesson from this series..

  • Nerk on August 18, 2011, 6:19 GMT

    If England can beat South Africa in South Africa, then maybe they can claim to be number one. At the moment, I think the title of 'world champions' is in limbo.

  • on August 18, 2011, 5:50 GMT

    England may be No.1 now, but they will discover, as India have, that it's a tougher job to maintain the rankings than gain it.

  • heat-seeker on August 18, 2011, 5:47 GMT

    "English success"... that's far from accurate. The team has been playing excellent cricket over the last two years, but the contributions of non-English players in the squad, and South Africans on the county circuit can't be overlooked. These are benefits not available to other cricket nations. That being said, Strauss and Flower are indeed creating a legacy of strong work ethic, teamwork and the pursuit of excellence.

  • CricFan78 on August 18, 2011, 3:42 GMT

    One series win at home and everyone goes gagaga over England team. If they are such a good team they wouldnt have faltered in World Cup and lost to BD and Ireland in same group, forget scrapping against WI. England have done well but I am already bored of these articles

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  • CricFan78 on August 18, 2011, 3:42 GMT

    One series win at home and everyone goes gagaga over England team. If they are such a good team they wouldnt have faltered in World Cup and lost to BD and Ireland in same group, forget scrapping against WI. England have done well but I am already bored of these articles

  • heat-seeker on August 18, 2011, 5:47 GMT

    "English success"... that's far from accurate. The team has been playing excellent cricket over the last two years, but the contributions of non-English players in the squad, and South Africans on the county circuit can't be overlooked. These are benefits not available to other cricket nations. That being said, Strauss and Flower are indeed creating a legacy of strong work ethic, teamwork and the pursuit of excellence.

  • on August 18, 2011, 5:50 GMT

    England may be No.1 now, but they will discover, as India have, that it's a tougher job to maintain the rankings than gain it.

  • Nerk on August 18, 2011, 6:19 GMT

    If England can beat South Africa in South Africa, then maybe they can claim to be number one. At the moment, I think the title of 'world champions' is in limbo.

  • ArUNN118 on August 18, 2011, 6:34 GMT

    @cricfan. thats true man..i don't think India is that bad a team.. if they can draw a series in SAF, then they can do this here too.. india played very very poorly.. but yes, england is a very good team and is a better test team than India.. but they are not the best.. the poor performance in the last WC proves it big time! but i hope India have learnt a big lesson from this series..

  • andysarmy on August 18, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    great article hits the nail emphatically on the head. those cavaliers of the game were wonderful personalities with their tiger moths and mullets, but winning is better. keep it up Mr Miller - english cricket is only as good as its critics.

  • Proteas123 on August 18, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    @ CricFan78 - You are right. England have won the series very well and have earned the number 1 ranking. This does not mean that they are the top team. Time will tell but the strength of all the teams in world cricket are comparable. Even pakistan have a realistic, although maybe not a good chance, of beating england in their next series. Can Eng beat Ind in Ind, maybe. A lot will depend on Swann but Ind play spinners so well I doubt he will dominate. SA had a good chance with Steyn and Harris, who seems to be more effective than attacking spinners against India, but still could not finish the job. Anderson is good but it is doubful that he could rip through India batting on a flat deck like Steyn did. World cricket should be very competitive for some time to come.

  • on August 18, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    CricFan78 - And I'm bored of people saying England aren't a good TEST team because they didn't do so well in the ODI world cup. They're different formats and players have skill sets that better suit one or the other.

  • Tom_Bowler on August 18, 2011, 7:40 GMT

    Magic! Judging from the first three comments if the mark of a team is the sourness of their detractors grapes then England are a pretty good one. Whinge on chaps, one day your teams may be able to stand up to England on the field, moaning like six year old girls is going to be about as good as it gets for you.

  • on August 18, 2011, 8:00 GMT

    Cook cannot be compared to great player like Graham Gooch. In the past players use to play cricket without one bouncer in a over. Cook scored his double hundred against poor bowling attack of India. Winning against test no 1 side is great feeling but Indian bowling is weak and added to that their batting too was struggling.. I do not think Cook can play a big knock against quality bowling sides like South Africa or Australia. Only time will tell..