From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.34 :: Aug. 25, 2011

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ON THE BALL / W.V. RAMAN COLUMN

The better team won

The biggest question now is whether Team India can get out of the hole that they are in now and start the revival process at the Oval. But in order to do that, they need to revise their mindset and start afresh. A win can work wonders at times even if it makes no difference to the outcome of the series but at the same time, Team India need a spark desperately and nothing but a win can provide it.

India have run into rough weather and while there is every reason to be disappointed about their lacklustre performance in the Tests, one cannot ignore the fact that England has slowly but surely emerged as a more than formidable team in Test cricket. Like India started to up their performance about two years ago, England have done the same in recent years and it is not surprising that they have reached the summit with emphatic victories against India.

In fact, they triggered the decline of Australian dominance when they beat their arch rivals comprehensively in the away series and since then they have maintained the consistency which is critical to get to the top and also remain there. Now that they have toppled India, the biggest challenge for England will be to sustain their position. Their current form and their consistency in the recent past suggest that they have the arsenal and the hunger to remain at the top for quite a while. As a team, they have hardly any weak links and their biggest asset has been the grit and determination shown by their lower order when the chips were down. The presence of an all-rounder like Stuart Broad has given them the flexibility and the pace attack at the moment is flooded with very healthy options.

The England fast bowlers have proved time and again that they are good at chiselling away at the opponents especially when the pitches have enough carry and the conditions favour swing and seam. They might have looked less than lethal during the World Cup but they know how to operate efficiently enough in Test cricket. It is an art by itself for bowlers to exploit favourable conditions and sticking to the basics is the key to success when there is enough on offer. England have done that exceptionally well and with awesome consistency.

On this count the Indian seamers did not pick up a thing or two early enough from their counterparts but they were up against a pack of batsmen who were in good nick and knew how to counter the conditions. The current England fast bowlers rely more on conventional swing unlike the likes of Harmison and Flintoff who were good exponents of the reverse swing. Bresnan, Anderson and Broad have the ability to not only swing the ball but because of their excellent wrist position, they also produce just about enough movement off the seam as well. Let's face it; unless the bowlers can produce some exceptional stuff, it is not easy to make the likes of Tendulkar, Laxman and Gambhir struggle for runs. Their consistency in line created too many doubts in the minds of the Indian batsmen except for maybe Dravid. But then of course, his patience is extraordinary and his intent is to grind the attack as against someone like Laxman who likes to dominate the attack.

In Team India's defence, it has to be said that they lost to a superior side that is in great form collectively. However, the first three Tests turned out to be one-sided affairs and the main trait that made India the No.1 team was missing in these matches, that of coming out on top when they pushed to a corner. Since Team India have shown us that they could wriggle out of tight corners for the last 20 odd months, the expectations were that they would get back into the series at Edgbaston. Unfortunately, the spirit was too battered to be re-kindled and the only option for Team India is to look ahead and see what needs to be done to get back to winning ways.

There is still enough cricket to be played yet in England and the World Champions have a point to prove in the one-dayers. M. S. Dhoni is getting to know what defeat is all about and it is at times like these his ability to motivate the team will be tested. Individually he has not had the best of times which of course can happen to anyone but his knocks in Edgbaston will provide the fillip that he needed badly. Besides, the confidence gained in front of the stumps will also enhance his confidence when he is behind them.

The biggest take out from this series is that the younger lot is still a few sandwiches short for the picnic when it comes to Test cricket and as such they were unable to step up to the occasion in the absence of the senior statesmen. However, they cannot be blamed for the debacle as they have been exposed more to the shorter version of the game for most part of the year and their ordinary showing will make them realise that a separate set of skills are required to succeed in Test cricket. The biggest question now is whether Team India can get out of the hole that they are in now and start the revival process at the Oval. But in order to do that, they need to revise their mindset and start afresh. A win can work wonders at times even if it makes no difference to the outcome of the series but at the same time, Team India need a spark desperately and nothing but a win can provide it.



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