England in India 2012-13 December 18, 2012

England prey on India's power

On the field England produced some magnificent cricket to win in India for the first time in 28 years, but there were also off-field factors at play

Thank you India. If England's players uttered it once after winning the Test series, they uttered it a thousand times. They took to Twitter to praise the boundless enthusiasm of the fans, they smiled at the crowds that came to greet them, they even faced the traffic jams with good grace.

But they might have been thanking them for something completely different because India's perceived strengths - a thrusting economy and overwhelming cricketing muscle - has triggered widespread changes that have made its team more vulnerable on the cricket field.

England did not just make it look as if they wanted to be in India, they knew they needed to be there. These days no international CV is complete without a successful tour of India. It is a must-have accessory for the fashionable and ambitious cricketer, a passport to potential riches, proof that they have performed in the centre of the cricketing world.

It is precisely this growing power and prestige that has now become as much of a weakness for India (as contradictory as it sounds) as the simple fact that the team is in transition. It is off the pitch as much as on it that the historical context of England's victory can be found.

India's economic growth is envied by many at a time of global stagnation. In the rarified world of the international cricketer, it has made it a more easeful place to be, a world of luxurious hotels, possessing a service culture second to none. Debilitating stomach ailments for the foreign tourist still occur, but they are not remotely as prevalent as they once were, and when they did strike, England had an army of doctors and nutritionists on hand to ensure recovery in the quickest possible time.

When there is the suggestion of a throwback to the old days - as Australia have proved this week by objecting to Kanpur as a venue for their forthcoming Test series because of the perceived quality of the dressing rooms and neighbouring hotels - India is now expected to deliver something better.

Alongside India's economic development - in fact, to a large extent, a direct result of it - comes India's financial domination of cricket. Does it produce 70% of cricket income? For all we know, it might be even more now. If those England thank-yous filter through to the owners of IPL franchises, they are not about to complain. Incentives to come to terms with India have never been stronger.

England has been largely ignored by the most lucrative domestic tournament in cricket. Only Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan are contracted to IPL clubs, and one whose career was heading that way, Stuart Broad, withdrew twice because of injury, and in his failure to prosper on Asian pitches he has done himself no favours. Others would love to follow, surmounting the fact that their involvement must be limited because of a clash with the English season.

This England victory, yes, has been a simple cricketing story about the composure and discipline of an impressive young captain, Alastair Cook; the flamboyance of Pietersen; the pugnacious team ethic of Matt Prior, a wicketkeeper-batsman at the height of his powers; the craft and tenacity of James Anderson in unhelpful conditions; and that rare thing in English cricket history, two world-class spin bowlers operating in tandem in Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.

But it is also about Indian hubris, a decline in its standards of Test cricket borne of a pride in its gathering power. India's pride was once drawn from its rich history as one of the oldest civilisations in the world. Now it is just as likely to be drawn from its delight in its own modernity, which places emphasis on the financial appeal of the one-day game. In some hands at least this pride reveals itself in a more aggressive fashion. It is not an attitude that encourages faults to be found and lessons to be learned from others, but one that can bring a complacent belief in India's superiority.

England did not just make it look as if they wanted to be in India, they knew they needed to be there. These days no international CV is complete without a successful tour of India. It is a must-have accessory for the fashionable and ambitious cricketer

How else other than in terms of Indian presumption can you explain that England have just beaten a side with an inferior attitude to fitness and practice, or an Indian side with a coach, in Duncan Fletcher, whose authority is so compromised and who believes he should have no need to explain himself, via the media, to the public at large? India's fanatical cricket following deserves better.

Back in the day, India was regarded by many England cricketers as a tour to be endured before "normal life" could be resumed. This cultural challenge used to be one of India's strengths - automatically putting them one-up in the series before a ball had been bowled.

Many touring sides faltered for cricketing reasons, exposed on slow, dusty pitches, against great Indian batsmen and spin bowlers, but they also failed because they were debilitated by illness, fractious over travel delays, worn down by the bedlam of the cities and the absence of home comforts. Too many England players have regarded an India tour as an imposition. Too many England players failed to see the endless attractions. That way brings disaster.

To win in India used to be to rise above the malcontents. Woe betide the team that kicks against the culture, because as the weeks turn into months it will become weakened and ultimately defeated. Surrender to India's charms, and to flatter it in return, has always been one of the secrets of winning here. Tony Greig, tall, blond and extrovert, was immensely popular when he skippered England to victory in the mid-'70s, and when he needed a sidekick he won over the crowds (huge crowds, unimaginable by Cook and his victorious team-mates) by asking his resident clown, Derek Randall, to do a cartwheel on the outfield.

But you do not endure a tour to a country that is now the powerhouse of the game. You go with a happy heart because as an ambitious cricketer there is nowhere more important to your career, nowhere where your stature is so high, your achievements worshipped by so many. It was not for nothing that Cook, an England captain not given to excess, ranked the victory alongside the Ashes success in Australia.

England's players occasionally complained of boredom because they could not stroll around the cities in the same manner as they might do in Australia (although they would do well to try), but such grumbles should be kept in perspective. In their few leisure hours, they have their gymnasiums and swimming pools, their Xboxes and Premier League football on satellite TV, their Facebook and Twitter, their Skype calls home, their multi-cuisine restaurants. Homesickness was a more accurate description.

At least if they are reduced to a good book, they no longer have to read it by the light of a 40-watt bulb. A decent lightbulb was the first thing this correspondent was advised to pack in 1993 before watching Graham Gooch's England side hopelessly outplayed on a tour where chaos was a daily occurrence (an Indian Airlines strike caused such disruption that it would have been no surprise to see England travel by bullock cart), and where Gooch's choice of prawns in a Chinese restaurant on the eve of a Test became the most infamous meal in cricket history.Pitfalls lay everywhere.

Those days are history now. India has modernised - and England have just thanked them for it.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • GeoffreysMother on December 21, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    Good posts from @balajik68 and jb633, and I think quite a good article from David Hopps. There is a danger that the BCCI will become too obsessed with its own power and not be mature enough to review properly where India are getting it wrong. India should use the wise, honest and mature heads of the recently retired Dravid, Laxman and Kumble, for example, to help them through the restructuring process. It will be a great shame of India don't come back as a great test playing nation and turns inward and just becomes obsessed with the IPL. The danger is like the Premier League in football it becomes over hyped (it probably is already), full of foreign mercenaries and a poor base for developing national talent in the game.

  • Balaji on December 21, 2012, 0:56 GMT

    The English players, just like the Pakistanis have been ignored by the IPL mainly because of issues of availability. There was no bias, just a hard-nosed business decision. Having said that, India needs to tackle the problems posed by the IPL where players are paid more for less. This is creating some lazy players. The financial aspect needs to be tackled in such a way that those who wont be valued much in the IPL, but who are considered good talents, should not lose heart. Case in point Pujara. The revamp of domestic cricket has started, but it needs to be taken further. Finally the BCCI should spruce up its image. After all it is the BCCI which gives ICC any financial muscle it has. After all it is the BCCI which is preventing Sri Lankan cricket from going belly up.

  • Jon on December 20, 2012, 19:34 GMT

    @IndianSRT- Spot on mate. There is no shame in losing series whilst going through rebuilding processes. The shame is in making excuses and not getting to grips with the problem. I will certianly not be writing India off as a test playing nation but things have got to change if the talent is to be harnessed. Everyone has their own theories on what the solutions are but it seems to me like many of the fans know a great deal more than the BCCI about cricket. Excellent post sir

  • j on December 20, 2012, 19:13 GMT

    England lead the world in sportsmanship and skill. You don't see them whinging like the Aussies did under Ponting: If he had been given out twice wrong like Cook did 4th test you would've seen more than a few toys thrown out of the pram. What do we get from Cook?: A polite response that in England's opinion the DRS works because it eliminates mistakes and makes all players happy. Just like the Aussies know all too well, Cook lets his bat do the talking, and he behaves an impeccable gentleman throughout. What a shocking month for England's critics - Anderson confirmed as the best flat-deck/green-top bowler in the world, No doubt about Cook being best Test Opener (Yippee!) and Swann's twenty wickets whilst turning he ball more than anyone else in the world slams his critics into silence. Whose hat seamer the Aussies have who pretends to be a spinner? Such a hilarious comparison when you think about it, too funny for words. :)

  • Aniket on December 20, 2012, 18:37 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster: After losing so completely, saying something like test cricket's boring is bit of a giveaway don't you think?? England played brilliantly Lets give them credit for that. And those writing off India, be careful, we have a bunch of extremely talented players around. Its only a matter of giving them a chance. I believe we can be a great test team again. It's just that giving excuses should stop immediately.

  • Ram on December 20, 2012, 15:23 GMT

    There was nothing mysterious about the English win - they were simply better this time.

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2012, 15:03 GMT

    virender sehwag was blasting much england was blasting

  • Abid on December 20, 2012, 13:35 GMT

    hmm....bit baffling this article. Bordering on naivety. Think the author is reading too much into it. Actual interpretation (if one was needed) of the recent test match series is much simpler. England had the better of it - just. If history of civilisations and macroeconomics were used as instruments to explain the scores and results, then we might as well throw in the kitchen sink - and chaos theory.

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2012, 12:40 GMT

    Most hard to understand and get the clue from what author exactly wants to tell about narrating world economy and Indian Economy, comparing England's shining success in Test against India. Does it mean that India lost everything? Don't just make Indian team as .......you feel, we will come back as Phoenix bird and show against Upcoming matches....vs SA and AUs.......just wait and watch...... @David Hopps

  • anagh on December 20, 2012, 12:21 GMT

    While partly true, maybe the author is reading too much into off-field matters. Even during the one day tour last year or the previous test tour India was not too different from the way it is now, but England managed to lose both of them. This time England just played superior cricket

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