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Commentator, television presenter and writer

Revenge is not the answer

India must play to their strengths against England, but not at the cost of forgetting their long-term goals

Harsha Bhogle

November 2, 2012

Comments: 83 | Text size: A | A

Alastair Cook drives through the covers, India A v England XI, tour match, Mumbai, 2nd day, October 31, 2012
A better approach to the practice match in Mumbai would have been to pick the lower-ranked spinners and let them have a go at the England batsmen © Associated Press
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Series/Tournaments: England tour of India
Teams: England | India

The word "revenge" keeps cropping up in the build-up to India's series against England, like a whiff of malodorous air on a pleasant evening. I don't like the word. It has the wrong intent. It can produce very short-term goals and can be counter-productive in the long run. Revenge is inevitably clothed in anger, and that is a terrible way to play sport. I fear, too, that the desire to seek revenge can come in the way of the quest for excellence, a far better objective to possess.

Against England, for example, revenge could mean preparing rank turners and unleashing spinners (or more pertinently, helping your batsmen, who can play their spinners better). Rank turners are as bad as trampolines, where the ball bounces from stupid lengths, make batting dangerous, and produce an unequal contest.

I don't mind the producing of pitches that aid spinners, where the ball grips the surface and turns, where batting requires great skill to overcome the bowling. That is fair and is part of the home advantage host teams are entitled to. It is also an essential part of touring and of playing in away conditions.

Preparing dust tracks will give India an inflated opinion of their own spinners and will tell the country's young fast bowlers that when the time comes to step up, they will be the first casualties. When India tour overseas, the fast bowlers will have to be dusted off and the spinners will look inadequate. A short-term goal might be served but in the long-term India will be weakened.

To be fair, India haven't produced too many dust tracks in recent times. Mumbai 2004 was an aberration. It was bad, but only as bad as the pitches for India in New Zealand in 2002 and in Durban in 1996. In fact, New Zealand 2002 is a good example. They produced terrible wickets and won the series with bowlers like Daryl Tuffey and Jacob Oram looking nearly unplayable, but their cricket went nowhere thereafter.

India should back themselves on good turning tracks where skilled batsmen have the opportunity to score runs. They shouldn't have to produce anything worse.

The spirit of revenge will also mean an obsession with a 4-0 scoreline, and that is too far in the distance. Sport often tells you that you need to take one step at a time. You can't think of winning the third set when you are still playing the first. India need to think of winning the first Test, only then contemplate the second, and not think of the fourth till three have been played.

Indeed, the first Test will give them an idea of how good the team really is, for there are problems within it - of form and longevity of key cricketers, for a start. Indian cricket is in a state of flux. Two key batsmen have retired and one key spinner - Harbhajan Singh - has gone off the radar. The openers need to convince everyone that they can put together long partnerships again. India will do well to try to win the first Test and think of the next thereafter.

I suspect, though, that beneath this veneer of great confidence lies a slightly troubled outlook. Not playing a frontline spinner against England in a tour game is an acceptable tactical move but a slightly defensive one. If indeed India plan to waylay England with spin on turning tracks, the more aggressive option would have been to play the spinners ranked Nos. 6, 7 and 8 on the selectors' shortlist, backing them to run through the visitors on a proper spinner's deck in Mumbai. That would be the subcontinental version of what the Aussies often did to touring sides: start at Perth on a fiery track with good first-class quicks, dismantle the visitors before they could adjust, and direct them to the first Test in Brisbane with thoughts of having to play superior bowling on a bouncy pitch. Rather than hide their weapons, the Australians attacked early with them.

I got the impression India weren't too confident of their spin-bowling resources to follow that strategy, but it would still have been a good approach.

I think the opposition England provide will depend largely on how they rate themselves. Too many English teams have arrived in India eager to find traps: food, dust and spin. But now the grounds are nice, the hotels are outstanding (they all serve quality international cuisine), and playing in India isn't really that difficult. Teams with players in the IPL already display the comfort factor, but not many Englishmen have played here. If they search for reasons to fail, they will find them. But if they back themselves, embrace India and look forward to the next morning, I believe they can be more than a handful.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

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Posted by jay57870 on (November 5, 2012, 2:51 GMT)

Harsha's embracing the "one step at a time" approach is welcome. Cricket is cyclical with ebbs & flows. India's been in a down cycle since the 2011 WC triumph. Now's the time to buckle up & move on. The focus is on NOW. It's futile to talk about SA in 2013 or WCT20 in 2014. Who'd have imagined No.1 India to fall off the Test cliff so abruptly? Reality: Competition is more even, more parity among the top 5 teams. It's so difficult to win on the road. That's why India must leverage fully its home advantage. And field the best players available now. Advance one game at a time. As Sachin says: "I'm looking at it series by series. As long as I feel that I can deliver, I will continue playing"! His reassuring presence is inspiring. Remember his dedicating India's Test win in Chennai to his fellow Mumbaikars in the aftermath of the 2008 terror attacks? Also the English side's sporting spirit to resume the tour at that difficult time? Agreed: It's time for India's comeback, not payback!

Posted by jay57870 on (November 5, 2012, 2:35 GMT)

Harsha - It's about Redemption, not Revenge! It's Team India's shot to get over that horrendous last trip to England, to show resilience & bounce back. With the way that tour went - key injuries, awful weather & zombie replacements - they're going to be motivated to redeem themselves. And they're going to be tested early & often. That's where they'll find out quickly who they are as a team in the face of adversity. Yes, Team India is in transition. But there's no need to overreact with drastic moves or knee-jerk actions. That's where senior leadership comes in, especially "Captain Cool" Dhoni: to channel the players' ("hurt") feelings into positive energy & boost the team's confidence. They've tasted the good champagne before. Here's an opportunity to taste it again, only one game at a time. That's how comebacks happen. Peter Roebuck put it best in explaining the secret to Sachin's renewal success: "Always stay focused on the next ball"! Just what Team India needs to do!

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 4, 2012, 0:58 GMT)

@MattyP1979: Oh and one more thing. You say India won't humiliate England. Now, I know India are not a good test team compared to England BUT what makes YOU say that ? Are you a soothsayer ? What if England do get whitewashed by this underdog Indian side ? Why is it that people always over look Indian cricket ? Our domestic teams are giving England so much trouble. Please follow the news. Oh and there is NOTHING wrong for India to prepare rank turners. That's what is known as home advantage. It's their prerogative. It's up to England to adapt, master, and survive the conditions. If England are really good, they shouldn't have any problem now would they ? Also, you claim there aren't bigger lambs away from home than India. You have been ignorant enough to overlook almost 10 good years of Indian test cricket overseas. India have had so much success ever since Ganguly took over as captain. So many wins and draws overseas than losses. Please check your facts. 2011 was just 1 bad year.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 4, 2012, 0:46 GMT)

@MattyP1979: Your theory is pure rubbish. So it's OKAY for teams like England, SA, and Australia to lose in India while it's cardinal SIN for India to lose away from home ????? I am not trying to butter up India's obvious fallacies while playing overseas but the fact remains that MOST teams are LAMBS abroad. I don't care about score lines, it's about winning or losing. So even if England or Australia lose 1-0 or 2-0 as opposed to 4-0, it's STILL losing ! While I am frustrated at India's lacklustre ability overseas, it's also heartening to know that almost EVERY other team are equally HOPELESS overseas. Case closed.

Posted by TheBengalTiger on (November 3, 2012, 21:30 GMT)

For all those saying they can't have been green tops because England scored loads. What about the pitches were India scored loads and skittles opposition out for small scores? they were rank turners. difference is, india have quality players of spin, whereas other teams don't. Likewise, in England, the pitches were 100% green tops. Just because England scored on them doesn't mean they weren't.

Posted by MattyP1979 on (November 3, 2012, 19:57 GMT)

Revenge shouldn't be the answer for Ind. 1. Becasue they will not humiliate Eng as they were, and 2. because this method of play has and will continue to ruin any chances they have outside the sub. Howver since they are playing 4 out of 5 years in the sub this second point might not matter. Lions at home has ben carted at many teams of late, but their a fewer bigger lambs away than Ind.

Posted by Feroz9700 on (November 3, 2012, 17:10 GMT)

Harsha is right this time. It's alright to play to win but also we should play fair and with sportsman spirit. Cricket is a gentleman's game and not playing a spinner in a warm up game is only going to strain relations with the visiting side. In that way they should not even had a warm up game for the visiting side and got them to play official test right away.

Posted by   on (November 3, 2012, 15:47 GMT)

Good article but it fails to identify that has been Indian policy since ages that is why they have struggled despite having high quality batsmen it would be better if they play green wickets. Which can turn from day three this would also help their batsmen

Posted by Abrars on (November 3, 2012, 13:37 GMT)

I,am a raina fan ..lol so I loved

Posted by Trapper439 on (November 3, 2012, 13:03 GMT)

Revenge? What have India got to be vengeful about? Vengeance is a word that implies that you've been wronged in some way. India has no wrong to right, they were simply obliterated 4-0 by a better team when they toured England.

Posted by   on (November 3, 2012, 7:59 GMT)

Get over this rank turner talk already. I don't think that England will face that many problems in India this time, yes they will struggle but they will not go down without giving a fight and I think they might end up losing the series 2-1 but just don't talk about the whitewash please. We all know India can't do that let alone humiliating the Pommies. This England team is much stronger than what it used to be. Anyway, does anyone remember the Karachi 06' test? It was played on a green top, where Irfan Pathan took a hat-trick in his first over and Kamran Akmal scored a brilliant century under a pressure cooker situation and Indians struggled to face Asif in the second innings. I think that type of pitches should be made so that we(neutrals) could get to see some quality cricket!

Posted by LillianThomson on (November 3, 2012, 7:21 GMT)

Revenge? For what, for England providing them with flat, dead pitches in 2011 on which they themselves amassed scores of 474-8d, 269-6d, 221, 544, 710-7d and 591-6d? The "greentops" were pitches on which India took only 47 wickets in 4 matches! Last time India provided a turner for the Aussies the outcome was that Michael Clarke returned bowling figures of 6.2-0-9-6. I'm sure that Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann are hoping for the same hospitality. And don't forget, these Englishmen have been rapidly improving in Asia this year. They were badly beaten in the First Test by the Pakistanis, then should have won the 2nd and 3rd Tests, and then drew a series in Sri Lanka. They have had a crash course in spin conditions in 2012.

Posted by   on (November 3, 2012, 4:21 GMT)

For India to have sanity in proceedings. 1.Sehwag should bat at No:5 where he belong. 2.Groom Umesh,Aaron as future lead bowlers. 3.drop Gauti/Raina/Yuvi etc for evr and try replacements..Rahane,Pujara etc come to mind instantly. 4.Drop Dhoni from test side and kep him ONLY in shorter formatts.

List goes one..but even these wont be done..so how will you play test cricket???!!!!

Posted by kharidra on (November 3, 2012, 4:14 GMT)

Sporting Spirit is associated with the Spiritual content. Being aware and living in the present is the quality that it extols. Living in the present is about playing competitively with the available resources. Being aware is like acting with information about SWOT and being able to "rising to the level" that makes competition absorbing.Both long term and short term need to be factored in. A damp squib scoreline 4-0 inspite of the process does not in away take away the fact that the contests have been absorbing and the contentment derived out of the Spiritual Content and the Sporting Spirit locked somewhere therein. The behind the scenes preparations and Content management help in laying a strategy for the resources. All within the framework of Sporting spirit through the Spiritual Content. This means greater responsibility off field before the on field activities are executed.

Posted by mikey76 on (November 3, 2012, 3:04 GMT)

Clarke501. Spot on. Cook made 294 out of a total of 600 at , hardly a greentop! And it was one of these greentops, Trent Bridge 2002 I believe where India won thanks to Zaheer Khan! You are talking absolute rubbish. Greentops are seldom produced these days, there is swing and a little seam movement but overall wickets in England in the last few years have been pretty flat. The pitches in Australia where India also lost 4-0 were flat too.

Posted by Vikum72 on (November 3, 2012, 2:20 GMT)

Real revenge is beating England in England!

Posted by Longmemory on (November 3, 2012, 1:55 GMT)

While HB's intent to cool expectations down is very sensible, I think too many Indian fans are living in an alternate reality. The truth is we have one of the weakest sides in international cricket. Sehwag and Gauty seem unable to get a start except in the most benign batting conditions; our one-drop is relatively untested; Sachin is clearly past his prime; at #5 we have our sole reliable bat in Virat; #6 is being contested by 2 left-handers who have demonstrated time and again that they do not have the technique to play against quality bowling - Raina and Yuvi; at #7 we have a mediocre test-level batter/keeper in Dhoni; and not one of our bowlers will find a place in the test XI of any of the other top five test-teams. The replacements we can think of - Mukund, Murali Vijay Rohit, Bhajji, Irfan - all have seriously problematic issues with performing when it matters. Forget revenge - if we can hold our own in this test series, we should consider ourselves lucky.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 3, 2012, 1:28 GMT)

I also feel that this series could be the LAST for Sehwag as an opener or as even a player in team India, for Gambir, for Dhoni as captain, and lastly Mr. Duncan Fletcher as coach. Ever since taking over from Guru Gary, Fletch has not been resourceful enough. Sure, some people here may argue that a coach is just another passenger within a team environment. If it was any other team, I would have probably agreed. BUT, this IS India !! It's a parent culture where the coach is often approached for advice and some back tapping. I don't think Fletcher is doing a good job in managing some of the young as well as older Indian players. Kirsten's presence was EMBRACED by every Indian player. I can't see that with Fletcher. I am sure he will be SACKED should India lose or draw this series. Enough is enough, we don't need old methodologies to guide Indian cricket any more. We need new, raw ideas. Oh and I also support evicting MSD from the test captaincy. He's not cut out for the job.

Posted by henchart on (November 3, 2012, 1:25 GMT)

Would SRT say adieu after this season?No he must not. He has to be and would be prolific and shut his critics down .He has already notched a century in a first class game so beware Cook and Co.,Clarke and Co. Maestro is coming and coming hard.Go maestro ,go............

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 3, 2012, 1:21 GMT)

I am sorry to say this but TOO MANY of our English friends and their cricketers always complain about dodgy tummies. Come on guys, quit being babies. That's no excuse any more for a poor performance in the subcontinent. The facilities are even BETTER than some found in the UK. So this time around, there is absolutely NO reason for failure. If India play well to beat England, then so be it. If it happens the other way around, I think England will be mighty pleased. But to add to Harsha's point, India is not the India of old, at least from a cricketing perspective. The IPL, the BCCI's might, the booming Indian economic position in the world etc., has all made India a much more favourable country to visit and tour as an athlete. So everything is out there for England. They just have to embrace India for the duration of the tour. I am sure this series will be very good for test cricket supporters.

Posted by disco_bob on (November 3, 2012, 0:26 GMT)

Excellent article right in every respect except the cuisine. Why go to India in order to sample 'International cuisine' it's not the food that causes a gyppy tummy it's the preparation.

Posted by Nampally on (November 2, 2012, 23:29 GMT)

@Alexk400: You are right on on most comments. Your comment about Kirsten being a better Manager is correct. Kirsten is a hands on & one on One type of person who was a great inspiration to the Indian team.All the players loved & respected Kirsten. India was a united team under Kirsten. Fletcher is a lay back person & bit out of touch with the players. India lost 2 overseas series under his leadership & had no intensity. It must also be noted that England did much better after Fletcher relinquished as England's Manager. I often wondered why India recruited him. However in India, BCCI & the Selectors will be on the spot watching. All the rumours of Sehwag & Dhoni camps will be annulled. These 2 guys will play for the Team India first & produce. This series is likely to be swan song for Sehwag if he does not put his head down & plays responsibly. I also think the new Selectors may name 3 captains for the 3 formats. My preference is for Pujara (Tests), Dhoni (ODI's) & Kohli(T-20).

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 22:37 GMT)

@Rahulbose The spinning wicket comments being wheeled out now are only as ludicrous as the rewriting of history coming out of India regarding "green tops" in England. Edgbaston didn't look much like a green top when Alistair Cook was rattling up 294. Obviously English conditions will naturally swing and seam more than Indian conditions, but India faced pitches no different from those faced by Australia or South Africa or New Zealand. In fact I seem to remember it was Graeme Swann who bowled England to victory in the final test...some green top!!!

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 2, 2012, 22:23 GMT)

So many comments here resemble they were typed by confused school kids. While India may be poor overseas, what have England done in the same time frame ? They continue to lose in Asia. What does it tell us about the English ? Yes, they are a much professional unit, always have been in test cricket. But, the results prove otherwise. They continue to struggle on slow, low pitches. They continue to fall like nine pins in India, from a fitness and cricketing stand point. While I expect England to perform better this time around, I am still not 100% sure. Yes, our Indian team is not that good; they are young, inexperienced both in the batting and bowling departments. Still, I feel India will play well enough to make the series competitive. It's unfair how many of our own supporters scrutinize our players simply for the sake of doing so. It's double standards when we say our batsmen are WEAK against pace BUT an English/overseas batsman is GOOD even when he struggles against spin.

Posted by shillingsworth on (November 2, 2012, 22:01 GMT)

@maddy20 - You understand wrong. The wickets at Lord's, Edgbaston and the Oval offered little assistance to quick bowlers, in fact the latter favoured the spinners. Trent Bridge was the only one which was seamer friendly but flattened out after the 1st innings. You say that Indian batsmen were 'unfamiliar with the conditions'. Really? Tendulkar had toured England on 4 previous occasions, Dravid 3 times, and Laxman twice. All had played in English county cricket. India 'only got one tour game before the series' because that was all the BCCI asked for. Harsha refers to people 'eager to find traps'. Very apposite in your case.

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 2, 2012, 20:35 GMT)

Some people believe india can win in india. For me india can win only if england is uncomfortable in india. Can indian spinners match pakistan spinners? I am not sure. i think indian team lacks unity. Indian team is not happy group. That is the reason for 8-0 loss. They refused to fight in england and australia. I blame coach more than captain. The same group able to gel under kirsten , the minute fletcher came out , internal pickering started just like during greg chappell times. Senior vs junior , now sehwag gang vs dhoni gang. If india draw or lose , it must be over for dhoni and fletcher. Dhoni should retire from Test. He i still think best ODI player and be captain in ODI. TEST and T20 captain should be raina.

Posted by ry13 on (November 2, 2012, 20:33 GMT)

@Maddy No offence mate but Punter averages 27 in India.

Posted by cricarch on (November 2, 2012, 20:06 GMT)

I understand Harsha is trying to go against the flow of media and calm things down. But in fact, 'Revenge' is the word if they have to create any impact. Go-Slow-Go-Safe has always been the attitude of most Indian layers. This will only help them draw the matches. They need to go out, play more than their potentials and smash the opponents. This is the only way to redeem the pride. I may sound agitated, which I am, but looking at the current state of India team play-safe approach is surely a bad choice. I am eager to see what Fletcher and Dhoni have in their mind. anything less than 4-0 will be a loss for Indian fans. If its too much of an expectation from our team, so be it. That's what fans are there for. So we all need to watch the highlights of Eng and Aus matches again and dont push away 'revenge' word... And remember, No-Risk No-Reward.

Posted by maddy20 on (November 2, 2012, 19:59 GMT)

Dear harsha, While I partly agree with your statements(the revenge part), understand that the English prepared grazing fields for the India vs England test series. The result was disastrous for India. While the English batsmen , who are used to the conditions, slaughtered our bowlers, our own batsmen unfamiliar with the conditions have been cut to size. Add to that the fact that our batsmen got only 1tour game before the series. They deserve nothing less than rank turners and dust bowls. If a four-man pace attack on fast bouncy wickets(trampoline bounce as you put it) is alright, then rank turners and two frontline spinners backed by a 2 man pace attack is fair enough. After all we should give Mr.Ponting a nice farewell by dropping his batting avg of 21(in India), under 20. Yes we should also prepare bouncy, seaming wickets. But in domestic cricket only.

Posted by whoster on (November 2, 2012, 19:53 GMT)

A very good and balanced article. England have obviously got to do a lot better against spin to do well, and there's also pressure on India as they've put in some very poor performances in recent times. India are obviously strong favourites at home, but there's question marks over both teams for different reasons. For England to have any chance of winning, they'll need 1st innings scores of 450 at least to put enough pressure on. It's a tough ask, and they'll need to sort out their spin problems to get big totals.

Posted by Rahulbose on (November 2, 2012, 19:44 GMT)

Here we go again. The tests have not even started and folks are sharpening there "spinning wickets" attack knives. It always surprises me that the same blokes never have any issue with seaming green tracks that greet sub-continent teams. Yuvraj with his part time spin took 5 wickets in the tour game, that is the best sign of things to come.

Posted by Nampally on (November 2, 2012, 19:39 GMT)

@jose pulliampatta: The reality is NO player spoke about 4-0 sweep!No player has used the Word "REVENGE". Only Raina commented. He said that there is a lot of "hurt feeling" after their last series loss in England. This is natural because the players have their pride- more so than Media & Fans.India is trying to prove their credibility as a winning team after losing 8 test matches in a row. I am sure Dhoni & Co know that they have a tough Task ahead. But the way to fight back is to go with a "Disciplined" attitude. Sachin did well to play in Ranji & get rid of long standing rust with a century. Mukund, Tiwary, Yuvraj, Irfan & Rahane all got runs against England in the first game.Gambhir, Sehwag, Kohli got modest score in the 1st Ranji match. Pujara & Kohli are great replacements for Dravid & Laxman.Yuvraj fought his life battle with Big "C" & came back with a Bang. If this does not inspire Viru,Gauti & Sachin to be @ their BEST, nothing will. Indian Team is good & will be Winners.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 19:00 GMT)

it's simple england will always beat india in england and india will always beat england in india. england will always swing and bounce and india will always spin and the two of them cannot handle each other's conditions.

Posted by ProdigyA on (November 2, 2012, 18:35 GMT)

Come on Harsha, you are talking like a looser already? Revenge is right word that should motivate our guys to perform well and be attacking all the time with the goal of whitewashing the English and give it back to the arrogant English Media. Regarding the pitch, it is impossible to produce a tailor-made pitch that would behave exactly as anybody would like. So aim for rank turners and white whooping these guys.

Posted by CrissCross786 on (November 2, 2012, 18:10 GMT)

Way to go harsha repeating whatever Sanjay Manjrekar like a parrot Maybe someday we will get to hear what our your views.

What i feel is India should play to their strengths and make a turning pitch and make fast pitches instead for the Ranji/1st class matches.This way India dominates at home and the players learn how to play on green pitches too.

Posted by shillingsworth on (November 2, 2012, 17:02 GMT)

Excellent article. Of course pitches should play to the strengths of the home team. The alternative is dull uniformity. At the same time, the touring side should still have a chance to compete, as has certainly been the case in India over recent years. @Anand Krishnan - suggest you check Swann's record on pitches which assisted spin but were not 'dust bowls' (UAE and Sri Lanka in 2011-12, Adelaide 2010, Oval 2011).

Posted by itsthewayuplay on (November 2, 2012, 16:54 GMT)

Revenge is not even an issue. If it is the only team that India can revenge on is themselves for being unfit and unprepared for the England tour. I doubt however that even if the Indians were fit and ready, they would have won because they don't have the confidence to deal with the short ball or the technique to deal with the swinging ball. The bowlers on that tour had no idea how to use the conditions and bowl line and length. India should be thinking of how to build a strong team starting from the grass roots. Aiming to win this series is short-termist India should focus playing good cricket again and letting the results take care of themselves, put a structure in place so that young players are always given opportunities rather than relying on out of form stalwarts.

Posted by henchart on (November 2, 2012, 16:15 GMT)

Say whatever you like or write whatever you want ,Eng are going to struggle and lose against India in India that too not on rank turners .Fear of spin haunts English batsmen more than the spin itself just like Raina,Mukund ,Vijay etc get the fear of lord on English and Australian pitches.As Sidhu often says, Cricket is played in minds and that is where the English are going to lose against India over there.

Posted by luks on (November 2, 2012, 15:38 GMT)

Oops, incomplete sentence in my previous comment: M.S.Dhoni is the first Indian captain to lose *six times* by an innings.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 15:31 GMT)

Yes, indeed. India should look for winning the 1st test, first. Would they? Today, in Ranji trophy, we saw, how bad is the form of Indian openers (Viru & Gauti), how much Sachin struggled for the first 31 balls (even surviving an inside edge at 12 by sheer luck). The century and all his fireworks were against bowlers, who had never been in the national reckoning. Will Sachin survive 30 balls against Anderson & Co? Rahane, Vijay, Mukund & Co didn't provide adequate confidence to replace the out of form Viru & Gauti. Umesh Yadav made an impact; but against batsmen who are nowhere near the visitors from England.The young under-19 captain, Unmukt, is still wet behind the ears; evn attitudinally, as he demonstrated when he missed a catch in the tour opener...The list of concerns is long. Condition of Indian cricket is not all that rosy, despite all the big talk of drubbing Poms with a 4-0 result. The only exceptions during this week are the still recovering Yuvi & much ignored Irfan. Sad!

Posted by Nampally on (November 2, 2012, 15:31 GMT)

Harsha, it is not easy for the players who were humiliated with a 4-0 whitewash NOT to have the "R' word in their minds. This gives them the intensity to fight back & show them that were not the "Losers" as branded by the opposition & their Fans & the Media. This will be the driving force. It is human & natural. Arm chair critics & Media literally tore these guys apart & the team is smarting under the ignomity. Secondly, it is nearly impossible for any curator to prepare a "Made to Order" pitch. So all this talk about "Turner" is non sense & fictional. Thirdly, India has a strong team much to chagrin of England & the Media!. Don't forget Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar, Dhoni & ZAK were the team members of England tour. They will be the ones who will show intensity & leadership. Add Pujara, Kohli, Yuvraj. Ashwin, Tiwary, Yadev, Pathan, Ojha, Raina & Ishant - that will be a tough team. Yuvraj had the Will Power to fight Big "C" to match fitness - an inspiration for India to Win the Series!

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 15:26 GMT)

I may quibble with part of the article but I agree with the premise, thinking of revenge is crazy. What are we taking revenge for? Can you take revenge for the fact that you were clueless in two tours overseas last year? I've heard the word from player like Raina who was a deer in headlights on the English tour. The fact that you can't play in those conditions is your issue, nothing is gained by blaming home conditions. You a well paid professional, buckle down and earn your money or step aside and let others have a go. Win because you are the better team not just because you've doctored the conditions.

Posted by FreddyForPrimeMinister on (November 2, 2012, 15:15 GMT)

Excellent, thoughtful and balanced article, Harsha. If only we can have more comments from Indian fans along the same lines. Support your team of course - but focus on cricketing matters only - and remember to consider there are two sides to every story... think of the alternative before you commit your (understandable) own team prejudice to print... (That goes for biased English comments too!!)

Posted by luks on (November 2, 2012, 14:55 GMT)

The issue isn't just about winning or losing 4-0. But, it is about how the team goes about a series. It is about the commitment or the lack of it. Lets not forget that 8-0 is the worst ever losing streak for the Indian team. And, 4 of the 8 losses were innings losses. India will have to win as convincingly. M.S.Dhoni is the first Indian captain to lose by an innings. And, in the past, Indian teams did not have as much talent as we have now. Those teams were not so good on paper, sometimes they didn't even have any pacers. Our Indian team of today cannot make any such excuses...

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 14:42 GMT)

Well said Harsha. It has been a personal grouse against BCCI for not improving pitch and ground conditions for domestic and international cricket. For all the funds filling up, the luxuries being doled out to past and present cricketers, if only some real improvement was shown on ground, that would be a step up for our cricket by itself. As for the series, it will come down to if English bowlers can get the batsmen out twice. They have to be on their A game all the time. Finn has to play, Bresnan will probably be ineffective, Swann will be a threat only if its a dust bowl.

Posted by malepas on (November 2, 2012, 13:23 GMT)

India should be careful here if they think that just making dusty wickets will earn them wins,,far from it,,as England have more balance attached then India and up and down wicket are more dangerous to play quicks for its up and down nature,,yes England batters are not very good against spinners but you would also need the class of Ajmal and I don't think Ashwin is in that class at the moment. I think this will be more close series then Indian friends like to think and they should be very careful predicting 4-0,,India doesn't have a good batting line up right now, barring Kohli, all others are suffering lake of form. This should be a good series altogether,Best of luck to both teams.

Posted by MianMoosa on (November 2, 2012, 13:03 GMT)

well india is looking far favourite for this series,,,,, only threat for them will be KP ,,,,, india should not look at 4-0 at this stage,,,, creating a result from all matches in subcontinent is very difficult,,,,otherwise this strategy can bounce back o them as well

Posted by jb633 on (November 2, 2012, 12:42 GMT)

By the same token I do not agree with curators generating pitches that are too much in favour of the seamers. Watching the SA vs SL series last winter I must admit I felt the pitch in the 1st test was pathetic. I do not mind seam movement or swing but the batsmen must be able to trust the bounce. Without being able to trust the bounce the game becomes lopsided to the bowlers. What cricket needs are tracks that have a touch of green on the day 1/day 2, day 3/4 good for batting but beginning to turn and day 5 they should turn big. Cricket needs wickets that bring everyone into the game. The perfect wicket in world cricket for me was an old Gabba pitch. By day 4/5 the ball was going big and on day 1 it would seam around a touch. I think even in England many of the pitches have become turgid and slow, Cardiff is a dreadful cricketing wicket for example. Fans want to see pace in a pitch but also tracks that let the spinners have their say too.

Posted by jb633 on (November 2, 2012, 12:32 GMT)

A very interesting article and also some interesting points raised by many fans on here. I can certainly understand the Indian desire to trounce us 4-0 but I agree with Harsha that this is not really getting to grips with the problem. Many of the Indian fans watched the humiliation in England/Oz and got angry with English; fans/pundits/weather/pitches etc whereas in reality the anger should have been directed at their own team. I have always enjoyed Idnian cricket (pre IPL) and I felt the Indian side really let their fans down. The pitches created were certainly no green tops and good players could make runs on them. Certainly the ball swung but the Indian players in previous years adapted well to that whereas on that occasion they gave up. Producing rank turners will probably be enough for them to win the series, but what really needs sorting is the attitude of players like Raina and Ghambir who instead of fronting up to losses are content with saying " wait till you play us at home".

Posted by Selassie-I on (November 2, 2012, 12:32 GMT)

I think the Indian team seems to have the wrong attitude about conditions;

When other teams lose in the sub-continent/Asia they come out saying that they need to improve and practice in the conditions.

When India lose in SA/Eng/Aus they call the pitches unfair or green tops(Despite the other sides managing to score 5-700 on them) and tout revenge in the home series.

Posted by Selassie-I on (November 2, 2012, 12:02 GMT)

What are the chances that if India lose a test that at least one player will complain about the pitch?

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 11:50 GMT)

Just create pitches that good batsmen in form will score runs on, but that offer something to the bowlers (spin or seam) - that creates the most entertaining form of test cricket.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 11:45 GMT)

I disagree slightly to the "lack of spinners" comment by Mr. Bhogle. Yes there wasn't a front line spinner in the India A squad to take England on, but there was one spinner who is no. 6th, 7th or 8th on the selectors minds. If Yuvraj Singh plays as a number 6 batsman in the test side, it is a foregone conclusion that he can't play as a genuine batsman. His bowling will have to be used. Otherwise, there are many better batsmen that India has in Manoj Tiwary, Robin Bist or even Ajinkya Rahane (I know he is a top-order bat, but at #6 you do need someone capable of playing the second new ball, right?). However with his left arm spin, Yuvraj brings a complete different skill-set to the table. By not picking a spinner, the selectors may (intentionally or otherwise) have actually done a favor by having a good look at Yuvraj's bowling. It was definitely a plus that he ended up taking 5 wickets - that's enough to sow the doubts in England's minds before the first test.

Posted by Selassie-I on (November 2, 2012, 11:44 GMT)

Nice articel Harsha, completley agree. I think a lot of our problems with spin are in our heads, just like any player who loses form they concentrate too hard on their technique rather than just playing the ball that is in front of them. India should have taken advantage and given us spin from the off!

Not sure about all the 'unfair conditions' comments about the pitches in England were good English test pitches, not rank green tops that were unplayable. Both the Oval and Lords were really decent batting tracks, I was at the Oval test, Swann took all the wickets in India's 4th innings while Sachin got painfully close to his 100th 100... I don't think we'd have bowled Swann all day had it been a rank green top, in fact if it had, that match wouldn't have even been played on the 4tha nd 5th days, it would have been over in 3. I think some young batsmen are way too conditioned to the flat tracks of the IPL, as soon as there's a pitch with some life in their technique falls apart.

Posted by ViperIX on (November 2, 2012, 11:01 GMT)

@sandy: if you want a pitch with 1st inngs at 600, and 2nd as 750, I wud recommend you get such scores on Xbox/PS rather than watching cricket. I am not sure, how many cricket lovers wud like the scenario(even if Sachin crosses 400, and I am inviting trouble for this comment). Getting back to the match, I have earlier mentioned this, India wud do well to win the series 2-0 or 2-1. Eng is not as weak(even against spin) as it seems, atleast not in longer version. English bowling is far better of the two teams(Pace+spin combined), and currently Indian batting is not in the best of forms. So, in case my fellows Indians are looking for 4-0 Indian win, they are going to be in for a shock.

Posted by GRVJPR on (November 2, 2012, 10:50 GMT)

Harsha bhogle always talk like saint. but thing is for lovers of spin bowling INDIA is the last hope. Even sri lankans are going for Green wickets. Spin Bowling is the dying art and need all the support. I'm fed up with seeing pace bowling all over the world. Now IF India starts to prepare green wickets as harsha is suggesting then It's Bye Bye for spinners. Remember, Cricket will be incomplete without spinners. In fact Eng, Aus, SA are so bad against spin that they want it out of their way and they will get great boost if people like HARSHA BHOGLE, who represent india in commentary box write such articles.

Posted by chapathishot on (November 2, 2012, 10:29 GMT)

@shwet14 you have a point there but Indians play spinners better than the English and that makes Ashwin far far better against England .Swan is good in English conditions but struggled against India in the home series and was trashed by all and sundry when they where really struggling against pacers.If yuvraj took 5 wickets think what Ashwin and Ojha will do.Making Rank turners is not the answer as those who know about our performance in the 90s

Posted by kingcobra85 on (November 2, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

Travelling sides should adjust and home sides should play to their strengths. You are not painting your house according to your guests are you ? Revenge is a good as it ignites passion and when there is passion your work ethic is more.

Posted by pratit on (November 2, 2012, 9:49 GMT)

"If they search for reasons to fail, they will find them" - aptly said.

However, do not agree with Durban 1996 being a terrible pitch when S.A scored over 250 both times. Contrast that with 2010 Durban test where India won. No team crossed 230 in any of the innings. In 1996 it was simply a pathetic performance by the Indian batsmen

Posted by sachkaan on (November 2, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

Hi Harsha,

I am not sure if you read these comments. I hope you read this one.

This week, Dravid and McGrath received Bradman honor for their contribution to cricket. As Richie Benaud said that day - " No player epitomize the spirit of cricket as Dravid does." . And McGrath for what he does best. I feel their true successors are neither from India nor from Australia. Both of their successors are playing for SA (Amla and Phillander). I observe a lot of similarity between these players and I think that you must have observed the similarities between them. I would be grateful if you could write an article on this topic.

As I am a great fan of your articles I would enjoy this one. Ritesh

Posted by chokkashokka on (November 2, 2012, 9:36 GMT)

Harsha - I have forever enjoyed reading your articles and I am a fan of yours. However, I respectfully disagree here. You mention revenge - revenge almost always is product of unfairness. I can't say that the Indian team was given conditions that they considered fair last year in England. So how can returning the same treatment to the English team be considered revenge? There is no reason for India to follow how the Australians dismantle visitors either. The record books and the rankings do not give consideration to how accommodating the home side was to the visiting side. That's what the English are - visitors - they need to adjust to how cricket is played in India. It's dusty, it spins, it's hot & your digestive constitution better be strong - to play in India. India have already played too nice to have given these guys three warm up games. India should prepare nothing but spin tracks from day 1. There was no spin on offer in England so no pace on offer here. Anything else is unfair.

Posted by ramli on (November 2, 2012, 8:27 GMT)

Harsha .. you say long term goals ... then you say play the first test before thinking of the third ... what is wrong in trying to win the first two tests by providing rank turners and then think about a fair wicket in third? The way forward is to lay good sportive tracks in first class cricket and prepare young players ... in two years we may have a good bunch of young talent available to challenge the seniors ... how is it?

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 8:26 GMT)

If picth did'nt Turn so for sure india will lose.....India can win on turning tracks...thats it..........

Posted by sandy_bangalore on (November 2, 2012, 8:14 GMT)

And why was Mumbai called a 'BAD' pitch? Just becaue Clarke got 6/9? What about tendulkar and laxman scoring fluent fifties on the 3rd day?? THe point is that you need such pitches once a while to do some 'technical correction', to use market jargon. And also, would you call last years track in centurion where Aussies were 27/9 a bad pitch??The whole cricketing landscape today is filled with players who can only play on so called good pitches-the gambhirs, sehwags,jayawardenes,mccullum, cook..etc. I am completely in favour of the odd green top series or the rank turners, so long as its not dangerous for the players concerned. And I would take that anyday over 600/8 decl in first innings followed by 750 decl in innings 2!!

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 8:13 GMT)

It's right but it is one of the approach to recovery from the bad condition and it also helps to improve the performance if it will be take positive way only.

Posted by Nilmani11 on (November 2, 2012, 7:54 GMT)

Really good approach. I hope the indian youngsters can understand this and should not talk too much before performing good.

Also I back the suggestion of playing with spinners and attacking englishman mentally too.

Nice thoughs Harsha...

Posted by tearawayquick on (November 2, 2012, 7:38 GMT)

I hope we prepare rank turners and win 4-0. We need green tracks in domestic cricket and play to our strengths in International matches. Revenge is the key word as far as this series goes. Anything other than a 4 - 0 white wash will be unacceptable.

Posted by Naresh28 on (November 2, 2012, 7:11 GMT)

INDIA should look to people like YUVI who is an inspiration to all sportsman. Only he knows what he went through to turnout on the field again. YUVI won us the WC and now it is his turn to honored by his team mates.Enjoy each others company and ENJOY THE GAME. Thats the best way to win. The SELECTORS need to interview team members and spell out where they want INDIA to go and in what direction. Some of these oldies might well be playing a last series.Contrary to what others say INDIA has plenty of BATTING TALENT. These have not been given an opportunity to play.

Posted by shwet14 on (November 2, 2012, 7:07 GMT)

I think, this will be a series where England can surprise India. India would be lucky to win 2-1. I think, Ind should play Sehwag at No.6 and open with Gambhir and Rahane. Sachin's approach will be crucial. He should be his natural self after initial period of watchfullness. He often goes into a shell and that attitude rubs off on others. It is likey that he will succeed with this approach rather than looking to wear the bowlers down. Indeed he has built his reputation by being aggressive rather than defensive. If Sehwag at six tackles Swann, Ind would have taken a major step in winning the series, but I feel that is a big IF. Sehwag these days misfires more than he succeeds. I feel Swann is a better spinner than Ashwin, even in India.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 7:03 GMT)

Indian players have been talking about 4-0 revenge. Brave talk! What has BCCI done post the two debacles in England and Australia that inspires confidence of a 4-0 blank out? Playing Sri Lanka, New Zealand and WI (with due respects to those teams) is not really a preparation for a series like this. On the other hand England appears determined and seems to have done its home work. They are coming from a tough series against South Africa even if it be at home. If England lets India win 4-0 it will be its own fault. Indian players would do well to keep their mouth shut and produce results on the field.

Posted by Muyeen on (November 2, 2012, 7:01 GMT)

let us look at selection for tour game in a different way.India has finalised 3 spinners and were not sure of which fast bowlers to play.Thats why that selection. Also the point you were saying about aus tour game, I think India had similar approach, you cant play yuvraj singh's spinners on a good track , how will you play Ashwin n Ojha on turners.

Posted by pitch_curator on (November 2, 2012, 6:30 GMT)

@ Sandy_bangalore -- Have you even seen the 2002 series in NZ? In the second test both teams scored less than 100 in the first innings and nobody crossed 40 in the entire match !! Has this ever happened in ANY completed test match in history? Agreed Indians are bad players of swing. But what happened to the NZ players in their home conditions?? Same case in 1st test. The ball was moving all over the place. Stats will not show you the innumerable number of times the batsmen were getting beaten even with the 25-30 over old ball to average bowlers. Durban 1996 was another atrocious pitch where the ball was bouncing all over the place. Consistent high bounce is one thing, but this was different. The pitch was designed specifically to intimidate the Indians at the start of the series. Now, can you quickly list down 10 test matches in the last 10 years where your " innumreable boring draws" have happened in India? I can recollect only one match in chennai against SAF. Waiting for other 9..

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 2, 2012, 6:12 GMT)

India has no chance in hell if the pitch do not turn. It will be shameful if indian curators do not produce spinning pitch. Sporting pitch will not assist indian "control"sponners. Pitch need to assist them for them to be sajid ajmal calibre. So England winning or making it a draw depends on pitch. England lose only if they are not tough. With IPL , most international players are comfortable in staying in india. So England can sneak a win mainly because england is better managed than indian team as far as i see. After 8-0 loss indian management did nothing. They did n't even blame who is responsible for loss. What it says india has no options in captaincy except dhoni , so until someone excel nothing going to change. But i want fletcher out. He has shown me anything that he is special in anything except collecting his paycheque.

Posted by Leggie on (November 2, 2012, 6:08 GMT)

The specific point which I would have liked you to dwell upon in some more detail is the fact that India has not produced a dust-bowl since early 2000s. There is a general feeling - even amongst the most respected cricket community - that each of India's win @ home is because of spin - which is definitely not the case. May be this is more for "Numbers Game" by Rajesh.

@sandy_bangalore: Don't know why you feel NZ 2002 were played on sporty pitches!! Even NZ was bowled out for sub 100 in one of the innings. There were 3 fifties in the "TEST" series - one each by Dravid, Tendulkar and Richardson. The pitches tilted the balance unfavorably for bowlers.

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 2, 2012, 6:06 GMT)

if England can match indian's guile and be tough , they can sneak a win in india. Indians do not expect england players be tough as nail in india. If England show they are here to win at all cost they can win it. Its all mental. For india to win sehwag and dhoni has to patch up. For me dhoni has to be removed from Test team. He still can win india but if india lose this series , he must go along with fletcher who is utter useless ( making easy money for doing nothing)

Posted by sandeepgla on (November 2, 2012, 4:58 GMT)

I prefer turning tracks over those where batsman can score 300 runs resulting in boring draws.

Posted by KFEP on (November 2, 2012, 4:38 GMT)

You must produce rank turners but not go too excessive. India have also been known to crumble against spin in the past few years, so we need to judiciously plan and prepare tracks. More importantly, does India have a second spinner that can take 5 wickets in an innings regularly. I'd think it does not even have one. On the thought of revenge, I believe it is relevant. Revenge is also a motivational emotion. As long as you are in control, it should be on simmer throughout. It adds drama and a bit of spice too. After all, we are talking of a test match, not a romcom.

Posted by arya_underfoot on (November 2, 2012, 4:37 GMT)

it's going to take an awesome performance from india to stop england. unfortunately, the indian bowling is simply not good enough. we're putting forward club level bowlers against proven test batsmen. it's just not a fair contest, even if the pitches are dustbowls.

Posted by Pacelikefire_Samrat on (November 2, 2012, 4:27 GMT)

@sandy_bangalore:Andew Hudson was technically better than our batsmen?What exactly do u mean by the word "technique" mate?Having been bred on bouncy pitches at home,he was better equipped to deal with the short ball just like our batsmen are comfortable against spin.Its only the advantage of playin at home,not the technique in this case.In NZ 2002,the pitch was so green that it was difficult to make out the pitch from the park,just coz the stumps were placed and the crease lines were drawn it was clear that the 22yards strip out there was the pitch.The ball didnt swing,rather it seamed around and guys like Oram and Tuffey proved unplayable.Why dont u talk about 2004 Mumbai?So in ur opinion was it underprepared just coz the Aussies lost?

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 4:25 GMT)

I totally agree with the comment above. It is after all what happens in the present and what would happen in the future that would matter, rather than hanging onto the ghosts of the past and making uncalled outcries for revenge to hide those persistent inadequacies. Indian bowling for the time being is an empty cupboard and the move to play no spinners in the warm up match was an indication of the ineptitude of the present Indian set up rather than a particularly spectacular Indian rope trick. The BCCI will do well to focus on the up coming overseas tours commencing in 2013 and the subsequent world cup to be held in Australasia rather than clinging on to cliches like vengeance. India lacks quality bowlers; be it spinner or pacers. So it would only be wise to move on and prepare bowlers of repute rather than exploiting the weaknesses of touring sides in the name of pride and retribution.

Posted by Kemcho on (November 2, 2012, 3:59 GMT)

A thought provoking article. The fact is that India does not have top quality spinners and the likes of Ashvin and Ojha only look good on "dustbowls". England on the other hand have quality spinner in Swann and going by his form in the T20 world cup, even Pietersen will be very hany on Indian pitches. And the Indian batting is not as strong as it was a few years back. Sehwag and Gambhir are finisned at top level and are good only for IPL. The middle order is inexeprienced and weak. The Indian bolwing in general does not look like taking even 10 opposition wickets in a series. Despite all the hoo haa about England's problems against spin, in my opinion, India has more problems.

Posted by sandy_bangalore on (November 2, 2012, 3:55 GMT)

DUrban 1996 was a bad pitch??!! Really man, just because Indias flat track champions dont score beyond 100 doesnt mean that it is a 'bad' pitch. SA managed 250 odd in both innings. And Andrew hudson, techincally better than some of our so-called stars', played 191 balls on the first day opening the innings!! And reg NZ 1996, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the test match pitches. If you check the stats, mark richardson and dravid got runs in that series. The others were clueless when the ball swung around.And why no mention of the slow pitches in recent times that have produced innumreable boring draws, and where batsmen like sehwag fill their boots? As a commentator, please be more objective and neutral, and not part pf the ever increasing flag waving brigade!

Posted by sk12 on (November 2, 2012, 3:47 GMT)

I disagree. Intl matches are not where you take chances. We HAVE to play to our strengths, which is to produce turners from day 2. For your point of improving our bowling standards, the place to start is Ranji. There is simply too much at stake in intl series to start experimenting.

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Harsha Bhogle Harsha Bhogle is one of the world's leading cricket commentators. Starting off as a chemical engineer and going on to work in advertising before moving into television, he is also a writer, quiz host, television presenter and talk-show host, and a corporate motivational speaker. He was voted Cricinfo readers' "favourite cricket commentator" in a poll in 2008, and one of his proudest possessions is a photograph of a group of spectators in Pakistan holding a banner that said "Harsha Bhogle Fan Club". He has commentated on nearly 100 Tests and more than 400 ODIs.

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