Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Comebacks and False Dawns

First, credit where its due: this England team did magnificiently, and while it will be a long time before my admiration of English cricket returns to those heady days when I worshippped Gower and Botham, Flintoff is pushing me there. They fought hard in every dimension, ensuring that their efforts kept the pressure on a team that might believe the hype of the incessant commercials and television specials focusing on them. (If English players thought that the post-Ashes hype was a bit too much, spare a thought for the Indian team, they get that most of the time). England's batting, notably the fourth day at Nagpur, and the first day at Mumbai, did the hard yards and created enough breathing space for their bowlers. Not that their bowlers needed too much: Flintoff and Hoggard were magnificient throughout, using pace and swing to constantly unsettle the Indians and never letting any dominating partnerships develop; Anderson stepped up when needed; and the spinners took vital wickets at the right times (Udal spun England to victory yesterday, yet another off-spinner to have done damage to India's batting line-ups, following his illustrious predecessors Pat Pocock and John Bracewell!).

As for India, it'll be easy to sink into the depths of despair for younger fans. But some historical perspective should help. Indian cricket is full of false dawns. Great wins by the Indian team are always regarded as harbingers of dramatic change, of a turning of the tide. But starting from Madras 1952, to Bombay 1964, and going on to Port-of-Spain 1976, and more recently Kolkata 2001 and Adelaide 2004, this has been shown up to be merely wishful thinking. What is puzzling about the recent surge of hope in the Indian setting was that no such dramatic win had happened. Surely two wins against Sri Lanka and some facile wins in one-day internationals should not have bred such hope? Surely, not after the Pakistan tour when the batting failed just when it was needed? Cricinfo's staff even convened a little roundtable to discuss India's new dawn after the Sri Lanka series; the drawn series against RSA didn't seem to show them that much had changed. Whence the optimism then?


Anonymous Rolla said...

It's interesting you mention the immense pressure on the Indian players , not just in this series but year in year out.
I thought Dravid looked tired today - he's a great player and has carried the Indian batting throughout the three tests. And when you combine that time at the crease with a high level of public scrutiny off the field then it's bound to have an effect.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Nagraj said...

the result was a shock to me eventhough i was not expecting a win but not such a pathetic performance.No one tried to hold their ground.

Indians learnt how to chase in ODI's but they are long way off at the highest level of the game.Most of our batsman fails in second innings of tests, after Karachi defeat where Yuvraj played a lone hand .Top order repeated the show again in quick time here at wankhede.

Its sad Indians hit very low in rahul 100th and sachin's 132nd when everyone expecting Rahul and Sachin to score 100 but entire team struggled to reach triple figures.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Samir, bad as the loss was, i really dont think its a false dawn. I have watched Indian cricket closely from 1983 and i can tell u that this team is much better than some of the "so called" great teams of the past. Even in Mumbai Test, the bowlers scrapped hard also doing the batting for 3 days, but let down again by so called Top Order batsman, who r there for God only knows what. The defeat is a blessing in disguise. It has exposed our faults, and we need to chuck out some of our prima donna stars right now. Lot of talented youngsters out there. We need more Munafs, Sreeshanths and Kaifs.

2:28 AM  
Blogger drsundeep said...

Gr8 thought provoking analysis there Samir! I really agree with anonymous though that the prima donnas must be chucked out now. However, as far as "exposing our faults" is concerned, I totally disagree, simply bcoz faults are there RIGHT FROM THE DAY OUR COUNTRY STARTED PLAYING TEST CRICKET - namely, inability to play genuine pace bowling, poor fielding, lack of genuine pace bowlers/bowlers who can take 20 wickets, lack of good openers (barring Gavaskar), lack of ability to finish matches, poor strategy and a host of others. We don't need a bloody Chappell/John Wright to tell us these! Question is what have we been doing these 74 years? If our bowlers cannot bowl good yorkers to finish off tailenders, or if our batsman cannot leave good balls alone, then I don't think we seriously belong there, as it is touted to be! I agree with Boycott's view that we have been too soft with Dravid so far. If we can shred apart Ganguly's captaincy, then why not Dravid? Why did he decide to field after winning the toss, knowing fully well what the 5th days pitch will b 8 Wankhede?

4:34 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

I guess my comment about "false dawns" is in the context of the suddenly increased expectations after the Dravid-Chappell era began. I agree that in many ways this team is better than those of the past but often, you can only play as well as your opponents will let you, which means that you need to transcend their abilities to win consistently. This team is better than those of the past in some ways but our opponents have improved as well: look at the English, Australian, South African and Pakistani teams for instance. I agree that our batting is overrated (always has been, frankly) and that we need more of the brawling youngsters.

6:32 AM  

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