India vs England: Marks out of 10 for India's players
8.5 – Cheteshwar Pujara - Proved his mettle at India’s no. 3 spot, after an opening double-century at Ahmedabad, and a follow-up ton at Mumbai. He went 16 hours and 55 minutes before being dismissed in the series, showing once again that he has patience and temperament in abundance, and will no doubt be India’s next world-class Test batsman if he can prove himself away from home.
7 – Pragyan Ojha – 20 wickets in the series was an entirely satisfactory return for the left-arm spinner, but is Ojha really the best spinner that India have? He won’t strike fear into the hearts of batsmen, and will surely struggle abroad – however, on this evidence he is more than capable of doing a job at home.
6 – Ravichandran Ashwin - A consistently disappointing series for Ashwin saw him finish with 14 wickets @ 52.6, as he continued to confound with the ball at Test level. Arguably the pleasant surprise of the series with the bat, Ashwin scored 243 runs @ 60.8, even recalling VVS Laxman with his flicks through the leg side.
A dark horse for a leadership role, India should aim to build their future around Ashwin: a calm head, he has the best cricketing brain that India have had since Ravi Shastri.
He is ripe captaincy material, and could also be the quality all-rounder that India have longed for ever since Sanjay Bangar left the scene. It would be a logical move to focus resources on Ashwin as opposed to Virat Kohli, but in a batsman-dominated, safety first culture, he will no doubt find it tough to be heard. However, being one of the worst 100 fielders in the history of all cricket should deservedly count as a handicap against this otherwise promising player.
In a perfect world I’d be allowed to perform a series of contests against Ravi Ashwin to see who is the greater athlete.
— Jarrod Kimber (@ajarrodkimber) December 13, 2012
4.5 – Gautam Gambhir - Remember those halcyon days of Gambhir being India’s most tenacious player? The gritty anti-hero who blocked out entire days at Napier and Cape Town cut a petulant figure during this series, alienating his support base with a swathe of petty comments. Terming this as a ‘revenge’ series for the whitewash in England, Gambhir offered more excuses than a pregnant nun.
Gambhir: “It means nothing until they’ve beaten us in a best-of-seven T20 series in Abu Dhabi – then let’s talk.” #INDvsENG
— Alternative Cricket (@AltCricket) December 17, 2012
It is now three years without a Test century for Gambhir, and his gradual descent into hyper-defensive, selfish behaviour serves to prove how ineffective the team management has been since Gary Kirsten departed, as well as the corrosive attitudes endemic within Team India.
4 – Virender Sehwag - If we deducted half a point for every catch that Sehwag dropped, he would be well into negative territory. Forget yet another mediocre series with the bat, the fact is that India cannot afford to carry both him and Gambhir any longer – the only hunger is for more ghee on his parathas.
4 – Virat Kohli – A typically pugnacious century in the final Test will give Kohli some much-needed respite, although in reality, it merely disguised the fact that he endured an awful series. India need Kohli to flourish quickly at Test level so that he can become the side’s KP - the encouraging thing is that it seems a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’.
4 – MS Dhoni – A disciplined 99 at Nagpur – his longest ever Test knock – earned Dhoni a modicum of praise but it raised more questions than answers. If Dhoni is so effective at taking responsibility, why doesn’t he promote himself more often, and in all formats? The fact remains that he is so tactically poor, that he must lead from the front to justify his place as captain.
Dhoni’s captaincy has shown as much inspiration as when the producers of the Final Destination franchise made the same film for the 5th time
— The Cricket Geek (@TheCricketGeek) December 9, 2012
Dhoni has been most effective as a leader when his teams have had a youthful look about them, and when newcomers have felt emboldened by his reassuring presence. In an Indian side where joints are creaking and egos are bloating, it’s easy to have sympathy with Dhoni – it’s not as if he can issue a public dressing down to any of the senior players that are letting him down so badly.
4 – Sachin Tendulkar – I would venture that to see Sachin clean bowled yet again was a punch in the gut for all cricket fans. It was a dawning, poignant realization that there really is no coming back from this: that once your eyes are shot, your talent and experience can only count for so much.
They say that age is just a number, and that numbers don’t matter – well, not unless they’re 76 at 18.6. Statistically, this was Tendulkar’s worst ever return in a series with four or more Tests.
It would be folly to write off the best of all time, and in spite of all the evidence, all cricket fans hope that he will be able to retire on a high after the Test series against Australia.
3 – Ishant Sharma – A strong, belated showing at Nagpur should not hide an otherwise awful series for Ishant. Take out his sepia-toned spells to Ponting in 2008, and you wonder whether Sharma would be anywhere near the India side. He has just three five-wicket hauls in six years of Test cricket, and just seven wickets in five Tests this year.
In a just world, there would be a judicial inquiry into how Ishant Sharma ever played 47 Tests.
2 – Yuvraj Singh – We once lived in fevered anticipation; now we accept it with a resigned sigh.
Say it out loud to extinguish any lingering hope, once and for all: “Yuvraj is not a Test player.”
2 – Zaheer Khan – You know you’ve had a poor series when people use the phrase “outbowled by Ishant.” Zaheer still remains India’s most skillful pace bowler of the last decade, but he is also the most unfit medium-pacer the world has seen.
To grade it out of ten would be a great disservice to the Test debut – nay, modern-day virgin birth – that was Ravi Jadeja’s bow at Nagpur. A debatable LBW that may or may not have been crashing into middle stump meant that Jadeja was cruelly cut short just 288 runs short of a memorable triple-century, but as far as low double-figure scores on debut go, it was charming in its brevity.
Indian fans laughed when I said that Jadeja was the saviour of Indian cricket. Well, they’re not laughing now.
With the ball, Jadeja recalled a young Bishan Bedi, with a succession of deceptively slow, straight balls that caused both Trott and Pietersen to leave straight deliveries.
Chin up, chaps: there’s no shame in being beaten by the very best.
The Umpires were horrific throughout the series. In particular, (ICC’s non-ironically appointed Umpire of the Year) Kumar Dharmasena and Rod Tucker were black widows to innocent batsmen all over the land. It would have been laughably poor, were they not playing with careers – perennial fall guy Samit Patel was sawn off twice in one Test, and is now consigned to England’s scrapheap.
Leading wicket-takers this series: OJHA 20, SWANN 20, PANESAR 17, ASHWIN 14…DHARMASENA 7. #INDvsENG
— Alternative Cricket (@AltCricket) December 17, 2012
Yet, the mysteriously unpopular-in-India-yet-popular-everywhere-else ‘Don’t Review Sachin’ system will still not be introduced until the technology is proven to be more sound than human umpires. Which would be fair enough, but I’ve got a dead Tamagotchi that would have been more competent at judging LBWs than ‘Heads or Tails?’ Dharmasena and Trigger Tucker.