England in India 2011-12 October 28, 2011

England's cup of shame runs over

This latest drubbing in India arguably represents a lower ebb than the ones before, and ought to give cause for concern for the future

For India's cricketers and their fans, this year's Diwali was an especially joyous occasion. For England, on the other hand, the light and sound of a million Kolkata firecrackers cannot atone for the five damp squibs that preceded them. It's been a humiliating fortnight on and off the field, and there's still time for one last comeuppance. On Saturday, the side that sits at the top of the World Twenty20 rankings will slink back into Eden Gardens, hoping against hope that they can exorcise the memories of their 10 for 47 collapse in Tuesday's whitewash decider.

Excuses will not wash. England knew that taking on India in their own conditions, and moreover in their first home series since winning the World Cup in April, would be an exponentially tricky challenge, far removed from their 3-0 success amid the showers in September. Nevertheless, all the signs were that they intended to tackle the challenge head-on. As proof of the management's intent, if nothing else, the squad departed for the country a full 10 days in advance of a series that was done and dusted in 11 - which is longer than India themselves had allowed in the build-up to a five-week Test series in July.

For all the good that preparation did the players, they might as well have rocked up in Hyderabad on the first morning of the series and taken pot luck with the conditions. Long before the final indignity in Kolkata, England's campaign had degenerated into farce and recrimination. Their most cherished standards of discipline deserted them as their players ended up either at each other's throats or in the faces of the opposition, and their battle plans for the subcontinent were once again been revealed to be several decades out of date.

If England thought they'd been embarrassed by defeats against Ireland and Bangladesh in the recent World Cup, then at least their fighting spirit in that campaign was rarely called into question. Here, on the other hand, England proved to be all talk and no action - more of a rabble, arguably, than they had been in their last 5-0 trouncing by India in November 2008, when they could point to the world-class contributions of Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag, and concede they didn't have a prayer.

This time England had opportunities to dictate terms in at least three of the five contests, but were muscled off the ball by an Indian outfit whose collective desire to prove their detractors wrong far outstripped any incentive that England could muster. The most surprising barometer of England's failings was their inept fielding - catching and run-saving alike - while an inability to rotate the strike was the most striking feature of their pusillanimous batting. Astonishingly England actually struck more sixes in the series than India - 14 to 13 - a fact that, in theory, bodes well for the Twenty20. But then again, drowning men always tend to make more of a splash than those who pop out for a casual morning dip.

"I thought we'd learned lessons from three years ago and put in place training drills which would equip our batsmen to deal better with the conditions out here," said England's shocked coach, Andy Flower. "But obviously I'm wrong in that regard."

The 2015 World Cup in Australia may be the long-term target for this one-day squad, but they'll be returning to Asia for more fun and frolics in the New Year, and in January 2013 they'll be back for another seven-match series in India - a country in which they have now won just one ODI out of 18 since 2002. It's an emasculating statistic for a team with England's ambition and resources.

Unless their shortcomings in such conditions are addressed forthwith, the contagion is in danger of spreading - not just into their preparations for the faster, bouncier conditions in Australia in four years' time (where their 6-1 post-Ashes record isn't much to write home about either) but into their world-beating Test squad as well. Just ask Duncan Fletcher for guidance on that point. His England Test side reached the cusp of greatness in the 2005 Ashes, which was the same summer in which his ODI team finally gelled as well. But when the rot set in thereafter, it was all-consuming.

If England thought they'd been embarrassed by defeats against Ireland and Bangladesh in the recent World Cup, then at least their fighting spirit in that campaign was rarely called into question. Here, on the other hand, England proved to be all talk and no action

The great Test teams of the past 30 years, West Indies and Australia, have ruled the roost in both formats at the same time - largely because they have been able to reap the benefits of permanent superiority, as well as utilise the breadth of squad that success on two fronts requires. And to be fair, that is one of the reasons why England travelled to India with rare optimism this month, because as their one outstanding player, Steven Finn, demonstrated, the desire to keep up the pressure on the incumbents in the Test team ought, in theory, to be propelling the many youngsters in this next tier to new heights.

That wasn't the case on this trip, however, where too many players dipped too far below the standards that England currently expect. Tim Bresnan, whose stamina and accuracy had marked him out as the attack leader, claimed as many wickets in five games as he had managed in that one epic tie in the World Cup in March; Graeme Swann, chastised by the coach for some untimely comments in his autobiography, lacked spark, penetration and joie de vivre, and his two botched slip catches in Delhi and Kolkata were crucial and crushing moments.

Ravi Bopara, apparently on the up after a starring role in the home series, shied away from the chance to fill Eoin Morgan's boots, and finished ignominiously when Suresh Raina bowled him round his legs in Kolkata. Jonny Bairstow found himself overawed, having glided through his debut in Cardiff without stopping to take in the significance of his new status. And then there was Craig Kieswetter, finally unleashed in conditions that should have aided his inside-out boundary-clearing potential. A run-a-ball 63 in Kolkata could not mitigate some sketchy work behind the stumps, and was probably not enough to save his career in the short term.

Excuses will not wash, because England knew what was at stake in this series, especially in this era of social media in which everything exists in the now, and past performances, good and bad, are quickly forgotten by the masses. They could have no complaints about the conditions either. Nevertheless, the timing of the series - so soon after the end of the English season - did the tourists no favours, just as had been the case in their post-Ashes 6-1 thumpings by Australia in 2009 and 2010-11. To judge by the gaps in the stands throughout the five games, England weren't alone in feeling jaded by the experience.

There is a wider issue at stake as well, which is one that the keyboard warriors on Twitter and Facebook will debate until cyberspace flows over, even if the teams themselves move quickly onto the next challenge. For India's disaster in England, and vice versa, it was all too easy for the respective sets of fans to pretend it did not matter. England's rise to the World No. 1 spot in Test cricket was the only story that resonated for their supporters, just as India's triumphs in one-day cricket - the World Cup in April, the whitewash in October - sated their own. The polarisation of priorities is an undeniable concern, though not one that will overly bother either fan base, so long as England and India perpetuate their successes in their favoured forms of the game.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cric on October 31, 2011, 14:39 GMT

    There is no stand out no. 1 team in Test Cricket like WI and Australia of the old who could win in all conditions most of the times. The ICC rankings do not tell the whole story as the top four teams will continue to topple one another depending on where they play each other. England no doubt has improved a lot especially in bowling dept. however others are not far behind and can catch up any time. I doubt if England can retain their hunger to post a few series wins away from home.

  • Dummy4 on October 30, 2011, 17:47 GMT

    Is Andrew Miller actually English.The reason i ask,is because he constantly belittles the England team.After the test series victory over India and rise to number 1 Test side it was "Yes but we havent got any stand out players like Australia and West Indies did when they were the best".Now its "Australia and West Indies dominated both forms of the game".It is interesting that West Indies havent dominated since they were stopped from bowling 6 bouncers an over and trying to frighten batsmen out.The fact is England are number 1 in Tests and T20,so why not enjoy it,rather than constantly find reasons to slag the team off.Yes we lost in India ,so what .Who won the last World Cup in India,yes India,not Australia,not South Africa,not West Indies,not New Zealand but India.The fact is India are a good side in their conditions.I believe the so called great Aussie side won 1 Test Series in India in 04/05,otherwise their record over there in Tests was poor.Were we always slagging them off No.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2011, 21:38 GMT

    My prediction, India will win 2015 World Cup in Australia. Dhoni's juggernaut can not be stopped. Mark my words.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    India winning the CWC in India was a phenominal acheivement. Imagine the pressure on the home team, especially Indian team in India. Its the biggest acheivement ever in Cricket World Cup. No other team has managed to do it. I think for Indian team, it was the Mt Everest to climb, and they have done it. Hats off to them.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2011, 18:46 GMT

    well to all those who say india won world cup becouse wc was in india tell me which other team has won CWC at home a CWC final at home plz keep searching and you will keep searching for ever until someone does is it future

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2011, 17:40 GMT

    These matches were of no interest to me whatsoever. I couldn't even be bothered to turn on the TV to watch more than a few deliveries. There are far too many ODIs and it is annoying that county sides are constantly denuded of their best players to either play in or prepare for these pointless matches. These matches will be quickly forgotten, just like nearly every other ODI. All these matches proved was that Indian sides are stronger than England in Indian conditions, just like the matches in England in September proved that England were superior in English conditions; surprise, surprise. The only ODIs which matter are those played in the World Cup and the next one is in Australia, not India. Preparing for it by worrying about performances in India is as pointless as an Army or Navy preparing for war by re-fighting one that finished 20 years ago, maybe like the French did in 1939-40.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2011, 17:13 GMT

    Good at T20 cricket, have had an amazing run in Test Cricket recently. But I fail to understand why they have been so miserable in One-Day International Cricket.. Year after year poor show at World Cup & Champions Trophy! Even minnows surprise them with sour defeats at times.. Can any English fan explain the reason of being good at 'real' & 'virtual' cricket but not at it's hybrid version ?

  • Bob on October 29, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    As someone has already said... let's not get carried away. In the past 5 years, the ICC ODI ratings have been dominated by Australia, with Sth Africa occasionally holding the number 1 spot. Neither England nor India have ever reached those heights. This was therefore merely a series between two also-rans neither of whom are serious contenders. It certainly didn't cause a seismic shift in the ratings. India are the world cup holders, having won it by playing every game barring one in their own backyard. Did England really have a chance against them.. Only in the optimists wildest dreams. So why the big surprise ?

  • John on October 29, 2011, 11:35 GMT

    @cric_fanatics on (October 28 2011, 08:58 AM GMT) - LOL , There are no excuses from England fans on this thread. In fact it was all going well from both sets of fans on this thread until you put your 2 penneth in. I have already posted on how Indias injured performed when they did actually play in the tests and they were really poor. Have you looked up the word HYPOCRISY? - maybe do so and then look at yourself in the mirror. It's a shame for this thread in that so far you have had English fans and Indian fans both being honest about England's dismal performance in the ODI series and then we get this from you. What a shame. PS please quote these excuses from England fans on this thread - I don't see any?

  • John on October 29, 2011, 10:39 GMT

    @Raju Rangan - Glad you're amused. England are currently the best test side in the world according to the ICC rankings. Sure it's by a narrow margin which could even be overturned by SA before England play again but we've earnt our ranking just like India before us did. I'm sure you Indians were having the ICC rankings as gospel when you were number 1. We have a long way to go before we can be compared to Australia (90s/2000s) and WI 70s/80s , but for now we are independently ranked the best , even if it is only fora few short months.

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