The second Test Match between England and India, which ended at Trent Bridge on Monday with a 319-run victory for the hosts, has provoked many reactions. The English media have been lavish in their praise of a side that was 124/8 on the first day, but was rescued by an aggressive counter-attack from the tail, and then by excellent bowling later in the Indian first innings, as the visitors crumbled from 267/4 to 288 a.o. England’s second-innings score of 544 a.o. then set India a Herculean target of nearly 500 to win in five sessions, but no one could have expected the dramatic batting collapse which saw only three of the visitors reach double figures. Not surprisingly, Indian commentators have agonized over the outcome.
Within MCA, Joint Head Coach Vasanth Krishnaswami noted that “England clearly has the best and deepest bowling resources in world cricket (something that was beginning to become quite clear even as far back as the 2009 series in South Africa). With the growing solidity of their top order batting and the fact that everyone of their lower order (even no. 11 Anderson is good enough to be a night watchman) can contribute significant runs, England is also the most balanced all-round team. All of the above made possible by excellent planning and prioritizing of Test cricket by the ECB and team management.” MCA’s Information Director added “I don’t think that England are as good as India have made them seem, nor India as bad as they have looked. But the fragility of the Indian batting, minus Sehwag, has surprised me. Notwithstanding the triumphalism back home, worries remain. That England’s openers are slumping continues to concern me. Injury to Swann could be a worry, too. Perhaps Panesar will come back into contention? And Trott’s injury also gives cause for concern”.
MCA’s learned elite-group coach, former first-class cricketer and mentor to a series of leading international players, Dr V. V. Giri, surprised no one who knows him with his cutting remarks on the Indian performance:
Thousands of those who saw India’s craven surrender at Trent Bridge on Monday will find it hard to believe that this is really the world’s No. 1 Test team. Actually, it isn’t. This team is on top of the heap because of a statistical sleight of hand.
What are the stats? Since October 2008, India had played 11 series before this one, winning eight of them and drawing the other three. That’s impressive statistics. But they hide the fact that five of those series wins have come at home and the other three are against Bangladesh, West Indies and New Zealand – the three weakest teams. India have played South Africa at home and away in this period and only managed drawn series on both occasions. Similarly, they have been unable to get past the Sri Lankans on their home turf. Still, India were No. 1 on the charts. And the England series was the acid test.
So, how did the “champions” approach the challenge for the crown? With a total lack of preparation, physically and mentally, and without the requisite hunger to remain No. 1. They carried some players with niggles and injuries, and some others, like Harbhajan Singh, by virtue of past reputation. While India have been without Virender Sehwag, a key player, and have also missed Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir for most of this series, West Indies under Clive Lloyd and the Aussies under Steve Waugh also missed key players from time to time, but they didn’t simply throw in the towel. The truth is that this Indian team doesn’t seem to have a champion’s strength of character.
WHY DID INDIA LOSE?
1 Failure to seize key moments India reduced England to 124/8 in the first innings before letting them reach 221. When they batted, India were firmly in control at 267/4 in the first innings before slumping to 288 all out
2 Still missing key players With no Sehwag and Gambhir, India were virtually topless in the batting department. Zaheer’s absence meant bowling was without its spearhead
3 Poor application It was not an impossible pitch to bat on but the batsmen, generally, failed to show technical nous to put up a fight
4 Swing and bounce India’s bane The Indian batsmen could not cope with the movement and bounce the English bowlers extracted from the Trent Bridge pitch. The conditions are vastly different from what they are in India
5 Quality opposition England were a formidable foe who are brimming with all-round strength. To compete with them, India needed to play out of their skin.
MCA welcomes your comments, too, on this fascinating series. To contribute to the discussion, please contact MCA.