I guess I have to say something about the drubbing at England. I really can’t remain quiet at what some have termed as the most spineless performance by any team in decades; only they said it in a more diplomatic manner.
Let us just rewind a bit… 6-Dec-2009; Brabourne Stadium; Mumbai. The moment; since I don’t have a video clip; I will use cricinfo’s commentary:
100.4 Harbhajan Singh to Muralitharan, OUT, There you go. India move up to No 1. It was flighted outside off stump, Murali went for a big slog and edged it to Dhoni who grabbed it neatly, threw the ball high in the air and pulled out a stump for a souvenir.
M Muralitharan c †Dhoni b Harbhajan Singh 14 (17m 9b 3x4 0x6) SR: 155.55
How did you feel back then? Don’t remember much? Neither do I.
I do remember what happened after that vaguely. Lot of people commended the good job; showered praises on Kirsten; sited Wright as a reason too and I heard a few mentioning the ascent might have happened sooner had Greg Chappel not happened. There were a few foreign experts like Ian Chappel who did mention that India did not have it in them to stay. Sour Grapes; I said.
The drawn series in India against South Africa, the drawn series in Sri Lanka, the Australian whitewash in India and the series draw in SA helped reinforce the thought that the side after all deserved the top spot.
Then came the happy World Cup win; since this is a rant about the lost test series; I wont discuss this here.
India toured WI with a severely depleted side; Dravid performed well, India defeated WI as was expected of them, anything less than a won series would have been blasphemous. 1-0 wasn’t great against that WI side, but it was taken; considering tired players and a severely depleted side.
Then it came, that severe punch in the stomach that renders you breathless; that big thwack on the back of your head that makes your head spin in the form of England. All the pre-series hype; all that nothing to separate the sides except a very, very slight advantage to England being reduced to dust and smeared on our faces. Exposed, stomped on, smothered, ravaged and murdered.
It all started in Tauton where in back 1999, two of my favourite cricketers pulverized a Sri Lankan bowling attack. The atrocious show at Taunton did not mean much given how many of them were playing a first class game after a long time and how India are always poor starters. A county team declaring 425-3 should have allowed some panic to creep in, but it did not really bother many of us much; 224 all out in reply did bother a bit though.
Lord’s was a disaster as soon as Zaheer Khan limped off the field. As long as he was there he had the batsmen under his command, he made them dance to his tunes. Then, all was lost, Kevin Pieterson bossed India with a domination that was last shown sometime before 1947 in entirely different arenas. A batting debacle followed sparing a dogged and lonely struggle put up by Dravid, he saw a scene that he had is so used to, wickets tumbling all around him. Broad, who England were contemplating dropping was a hero. England bossed over India again and gave them an improbable 458 to get to win. Without Sehwag, India were surely not going to even try getting there and folded meekly for 261, with Raina and Laxman showing some kind of resistance this time around. Done and dusted. No alarm bells again; why? India are always poor starters and we were well within or rights to expect a full blooded comeback of sorts.
Over to Trent Bridge. Won toss, put England in and there it was, the famed and spirited Indian come back! Skittled England for 221 and Dravid and Laxman going strong. That’s it! But a procession started as soon as Laxman departed and Dravid witnessed familiar scenes again as he worked his way to another century. India folded up with a lead of just 67. 2 early wickets did fall for England in the 2nd innings, but the entire middle order accounted for England’s 544 and set India 478. India submitted themselves with 158 to show on the board. Panic sets in.
Over to Edgbaston. We really thought we were going to see India hold England and not give up the crown. Lost toss and put in, bad omen. The hyped Sehwag return ended in one ball; is it all over? Not quite, Dravid and Gambhir played on with relentless confidence for 1 hour; bliss… and then, Gambhir played on, Dravid got the ball of the match and a procession followed again. 224 all out on good batting conditions. What did the bowlers do in return? Allowed England to score 710 and let Cook play for 2 days. Bat again, will you show something remotely similar to a fight? No. 224 all out. Dravid, the best batsman by miles, hits his shoelace and goes in.
Oval, a good batting track. England bat first. Rain interrupts and washes out 2 whole sessions of Day 1. England still score 591-6 and declare after rain interruption on day 3. With a victory on absolutely nobody’s mind; on excellent batting conditions, with great batsmen, we should be able to survive 3 and a bit days and hold on to number 2 at the least? No. 300 all out on the back of 146* by (I don’t need to name who) and Amit Mishra’s 43; and second innings, going strong at 262-3 and meanders to 283 all out. These are clearly ghosts of the past. Anyone who followed Indian cricket in the 90s; the decade that never was, would know the pain this causes.
Series handed… as AltCricket said on twitter “This was not a whitewash, this was a humiliation”.
So many things to blame, so many scapegoats to point at. What is the real reason behind all this? Why was one man able to stand tall amidst all the carnage? Why was no one else able to even show a semblance of a fight?
I, personally, regardless of what I said to the World, have to admit, knew something was going to go wrong when the IPL was played a mere week after the euphoria of the WC victory. Players who hugged each other; cried on each other’s shoulders were going against each other, more importantly; did the joy sink in? Where is the well deserved rest that you need after accomplishing something like that? What followed was even more horrendous; after playing the full IPL season, the big guns took rest for an International tour; and things started going terribly wrong from there.
I am squarely blaming IPL for everything, nothing else. Murali Vijay was technically sound; IPL spoilt him; the kids who are an awesome prospect there have not learnt the art of test cricket. The circus, which sadly, is here to stay has killed the purest form of the game; and this holds true only for India, as you can see; England, Australia, South Africa continue to give everything to this form of the game. What’s most important is, all these countries have an “off-season”. Allows them to breathe free and get back on to the game in top form and ultimate fitness. The Indian players have an off season which they use, not to relax, but to play the IPL.
The test series has been done and dusted; we have been humiliated; the BCCI have promised a “review”; knowing them, no good will come out of it. But, a fan, a die-hard fan, keeps the faith, not knowing on what, but hopes the little light at the end of the tunnel, is not that of an on-coming train.