Sunday, June 03, 2007

A little nostalgia

India last won a test series in England in 1986. That series used to get mentioned a lot whenever people talked about India's "win-outside-the-subcontinent" drought, which fortunately ended last year in the West Indies (it wasn't the most distinguished venue in which to end the drought but what the heck, it did the trick, as South Africa and Australia continued to look out of reach). Beating England at home will be a bigger achievement than beating the West Indies, no sensible cricket fan would dispute that. I briefly commented on why it would be difficult in my last post, and I will stand by that assertion. For now, I'd like to wallow in nostalgia and dwell on all India did right in 1986 (and mercifully, we were only subjected to three one-day internationals, which in the older format, were dispensed with before the tests started). It was the one of the highpoints of a very good Indian outfit that had gelled in the 1983-1986 (even though that time frame included a fearsome thumping at the hands of the mighty West Indies). A year later, that same outfit would start to unravel. But that summer, led by Kapil Dev, India did lots of things right. The bowling was just effective enough to get early wickets most of the time. At Lords England were 98-4 in the first innings (after being 66-0) and then 113-5 in the second. India were 253-7 before making it to 341 and a vital 47 run lead - all thanks to Vengsarkar's epic, unbeaten 126. Even then, as I listened to the last wicket stand, I felt India would not be denied. The second test saw one of India's most comprehensive wins abroad: 279 runs being the margin in the end. Vengsarkar again scored a ton, and India's seamers did the rest. I would have liked a clean sweep, and while that was denied, India's win could not be. Tough, determined batting, a quality, disciplined seam attack and decent fielding did the trick. That English team was not a world-beating outfit and neither is the current one, but the Indian team they will face lacks cohesion, and is a slow learner in alien conditions. (And if the South African tour taught us anything, its that it still fritters away advantages that were very hard-gained).

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