The "Good" England and The "Bad and Ugly" India
Before the series started, I had written about the 5 major talking points of the series, and how they would have a major say on the end result. Now that the test series is done and dusted, it is a good time to reflect back at it and how much of an impact did they actually have on the series.
England Batsmen vs Spinners: At the start of the series, this was what the talks were hinged upon. Can the English batsmen survive the great Indian Spin Trick? The capitulation in the 1st innings at Ahmedabad did not help their cause. But as the series moved on, the English batsmen, especially Alastair Cook, started getting a hold of things. The gradually increasing ineffectiveness of the Indian spinners made things easier for them. Each of the English batsmen contributed at different stages of the series.
Compton ensured England got off to a good start in each test. Trott helped ensure that there would be no last day miracles for India in the 4th test. KP had his troubles against left arm spin, but his innings in Mumbai on a square turner turned around things for England in the series. Ian Bell came good in the 4th test. Joe Root had a terrific debut as his innings of 73 was critical for England in the final test. Matt Prior had quite a few handy contributions down the order. Indians used no less than 5 spinners during the course of the series, but the English batsmen had clearly exorcised their Spin Demons.
The Indian batsmen on the other hand came up short against the English spinners. Monty and Swann had them hopping on the Mumbai minefield and were excellent in Kolkata as well. India had bitten off more than they could chew.
Return of Yuvraj Singh and Kevin Pietersen: Both of these players were expected to be key figures for the team, and crucial to their team’s fortunes in the series. One of them enhanced his reputation with a couple of splendid innings, the other didn’t last the entire distance.
Yuvraj Singh started off in commanding fashion with a valuable 72 in the 1st test. But he failed in his trial against spin in Mumbai and Ahmedabad and was subsequently dropped for the final test, along with Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.
Kevin Pietersen on the other hand had a horrid 1st test as he fell to Ojha in both the innings. He came back in great style in the 2nd test as he made 186 of the best runs one will ever get to see. The pitch was conducive to spin, but that didn’t thwart Pietersen from being his natural attacking self. He also played a critical innings of 73 in the 1st innings of the final test, to ensure India didn’t stage a comeback late in the series.
Yuvraj Singh may now find it hard to make his way back into the test team, whereas KP is here to stay.
Opening troubles: Both teams entered the series with troubles at the top of the order, and only one of them left with the questions answered.
England look like they might have found their replacement for Andrew Strauss in the form of Nick Compton. Though he did not make any major contributions, he showed the will to stay put in the crease and ensured that India did not make early inroads in the English batting lineup. Joe Root, the other reserve opener also did his credentials no harm. Coming in at No.6, he showed the will to slug it out in the tough Indian conditions. He is one to look out for in the future.
India had Sehwag and Gambhir at the helm. Sehwag scored a ton in the 1st test, Gambhir had a couple of fifties. But there was not a single time, except for the 2nd innings in Kolkata, where these two proved that they could still be a good opening pair for India. India needs fresh blood at the top of the order.
The Rise and Rise of Pujara and Kohli: The young guns of Indian Cricket were expected to lead the batting charge. Pujara was in his elements in the first two tests, and ended up as the 2nd highest run scorer in the series, behind Cook. Tougher challenges lie in the future, and Pujara does look set for it.
Kohli had an extremely frustrating series. He got starts in almost every innings, but lapses in concentration and patience led to his downfall. He proved his worth in the final test as he crafted a patient century in company with MS Dhoni. India were 4 down for 80 odd and his innings was crucial in saving India the blushes. He needs to work on his consistency and should learn to not give it away at critical situations. With the kind of talent he possesses, there are no doubts that he will right the wrongs and will be a vital cog of the Indian Test team for years to come.
How much longer, Sachin? Barring a scratchy little 76 in the 3rd test, Sachin’s horrendous year with the bat continued. He made 112 runs in the series at an average of 18.67 His mode of dismissals further cemented the fact that age has caught up and he is becoming a liability to the team. This was the first time in his entire career that Sachin did not figure in the Top 10 batsmen of the series.
It is high time that Sachin takes the long pending decision on his own, or the selectors will have to make the call for him. India needs young blood to take them forward. Ajinkya Rahane says Hello.
So, yet another series and yet another defeat for India. England played brilliant cricket throughout and thoroughly deserved the win. India on the other hand have some serious introspection to do.
India have now won just 5 and lost 10 of their last 17 test matches. Not good numbers for any team, let alone a team which was ranked No.1 less than 2 years back. Major changes are warranted. Non performing individuals need to be shown the door. The selectors need to man up and remove the rust from the team. The team needs a fresh look for the fresh challenges it has in front of it in the coming years. Let go of the Past, Cleanup the Present, Look to the Future.