|Is India’s cricket debacle the
Cricket is a great leveller. For the past 21 months
India had been the top Test team in the world. In
April they became the world champions, lifting the
World Cup after nearly three decades.
Nothing could seemingly go wrong with this
indisputably talented team with the best batting
line-up in the world. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the
captain with the Midas touch, leading India to
dominate the world of cricket in all formats of the
game, including the fickle Twenty20.
Staying on top was never going to be easy but Indian
fans are shocked by the way India has capitulated to
England during this dismal summer.
After their defeats at Lord’s and Nottingham,
India had actually scored 10 runs less than
Bangladesh managed in their two Tests in England
And after the mauling at Edgbaston, India - say most
fans - has no face to show. “The margins of defeat
are getting bigger and bigger,” said an evidently
exasperated Dhoni to a TV channel after the defeat.
The unforgiving Indian media is pulling no punches
after the defeat. The headlines came blunt and quick
on the news channels; moments after Bresnan picked
up Sreesanth and put an end to India’s agony.
“India Dethroned” appeared to be the most popular
headline, followed by screechy ones like “End of
Dhoni’s Midas touch” and “Dhoni’s boys decimated”.
On one channel I watched an anchor running out of
words as he breathlessly screamed: “India has been
outplayed, outsmarted, erm, hmm...”
The inquisition of the world’s most high-profile,
richest cricketers had begun in right earnest with
one channel unsparingly highlighting the “villains”
of the team.
History is stacked against India in England. India
has now only won three of the 16 Test series in
England. They did not win a single Test during the
first six series and won a Test and a series for the
first time only in 1971.
India again won in 1986 and 2007, the second time by
a slim 1-0 margin. With overcast, cloudy and cold
weather helping ample seam and swing bowling on
relatively green tops, England has never been
India’s favourite playing field.
But expectations were high from this Indian team,
which many believed was the strongest ever to tour
No-one believed India wouldn’t be able to score 300
runs even once in the six innings it has played so
far. No one expected India would lose by more than
750 runs in the first three Tests. “This is possibly
the worst series we have played in decades,” cricket
fan and writer Mukul Kesavan said.
Possibly worse than the sepulchral summer of 1974
when England walloped a weak Indian team 3-0 - twice
by an innings - and India were skittled out for 42 -
their lowest score ever - at Lord’s. Is this the
It is clear that a combination of injuries to star
players, lack of adequate preparation, absence of a
wider pool of Test players and too much cricket
thanks to a thoughtlessly crowded cricket calendar
rendered India hors de combat.
Former Indian opener Aakash Chopra believes India
“lacked a roadmap” for this marquee series, simply
not preparing well enough. He is right.
India possibly didn’t realise they were up against a
team whose batsmen were in peak and insatiable form
- England batsmen had scored, for example, six
double centuries in the past 14 months alone,
compared to eight in the previous 21 years.
Also, hunting in a pack, England’s pace attack had
been looking menacingly like the best one in the
world for months. Over the past 18 months it had
averaged 26.55 runs per wicket and struck every 52
deliveries, the best among all teams.
Of the eight top pace bowlers in the world since
January 2010, four were English - Tim Bresnan, James
Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Steven Finn - with more
than 200 wickets between themselves during this
period. This was not a team to be taken lightly.
So is the debacle in England the beginning of the
end of India’s domination as the top Test playing
nation? Will India slide further down the ladder or
is this a one-off setback and India will rebound
It is difficult to say. The stellar batting
superstars and best pace bowler are ageing, the best
spinner has lost his sting, and the pace attack
lacks a genuine tearaway strike bowler who can run
through the top order.
There are no stand-out all-rounders and where
have the fabled spinners gone - bowlers, as The
Daily Telegraph wrote, “with rubbery wrists and
flexible fingers who will beguile batsmen”?
Most worryingly, there are few automatic
replacements in sight. Even if India manages to
rebound now it is not looking very bright ahead. And
the men who run Indian cricket, addled on the riches
of the lucrative Indian Premier League, don’t appear
to be too bothered. -(BBC)
|England’s unsung heroes
By Sam Sheringham
The rags to riches story of England’s rise from the
bottom to the top of the world rankings features
plenty of big-name stars but the roles of several
supporting actors should not be overlooked.
Captain Andrew Strauss, his team-mates and coach
Andy Flower have received most of the plaudits,
while many have noted the importance of former coach
Duncan Fletcher and ex-skipper Michael Vaughan in
steering England towards the summit.
But over the past decade or so, several other
figures have played fundamental roles in helping
transform England into an ultra-professional winning
Here are five of English cricket’s many unsung
|TROY COOLEY, ENGLAND BOWLING COACH 2003-2006
the late 1990s and early 2000s, England had plenty
of talented bowlers, but rarely did they boast a
true attack, a collection of talents each offering
different but complimentary skills.
Cooley, a Tasmanian who never played
international cricket, was lured to England by his
compatriot Rod Marsh and, after initially working
with the ECB Academy; he soon became involved with
the senior bowlers.
In 2005, he helped mould Steve Harmison, Matthew
Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones into a
formidable unit, using a blend of raw pace, seam
movement and reverse swing to repeatedly dismantle
Australia’s much-vaunted batting line-up.
So fundamental was his role in helping England win
the Ashes back that Australia promptly snatched him
back the following year.
“Troy Cooley was a tremendous bowling coach who
helped fine-tune the actions of Harmison, Flintoff
and Jones,” says Stewart. “They already had the
talent but he provided that extra pair of eyes off
the field and just kept pointing them in the right
MACLAURIN, ECB CHAIRMAN 1997-2002
A former chairman of Vodafone and Tesco,
MacLaurin set about turning English cricket into a
successful business on and off the pitch. He
introduced central contracts to give the England
management more control over the country’s finest
players, and set up a National Academy, which was
based in Adelaide in 2001 and 2002 before moving to
its current home at Loughborough University.
He invested heavily in grassroots cricket and
formulated a National Strategy for Cricket, with the
stated aim of seeing England ranked number one in
the world by 2007. We’ll forgive him the four-year
“When I was captain and David Lloyd was coach, we
talked about wanting central contracts but Ian
MacLaurin was a very successful business man who
came in and made that happen,” says former skipper
“Now the coach has total control over the England
team. He can pull them out of county games or send
them back in to regain form. You can have training
camps, fitness camps, and it is no coincidence that
since central contracts came in England has made
|GRAHAM GOOCH, ENGLAND BATTING COACH NOV
Ishant Sharma was blowing a hole in the England
batting order on the fourth day at Lord’s, one man
on the home balcony looked particularly distressed.
It was Graham Gooch, whose sterling work has helped
ensure that such middle-order collapses are largely
a thing of the past.
Gooch is a father figure to many of the England
batsmen, who look to meet his demand for the “daddy”
hundreds that really alter the course of matches.
Anyone doubting Gooch’s influence should
contemplate the following statistic. In the past 15
months, England’s batsmen have scored six
double-centuries in Test cricket, the same number
they managed in the previous 15 years.
“Even when I played under his captaincy he always
used to say you never had enough runs,” says
Stewart. “If you got to 100, go and get 150. When he
got to 300, that wasn’t enough so he went and got
333. They are the standards you have to set if you
want to be the best team in the world.”
HUSSAIN, ENGLAND CAPTAIN 1999-2003
Fletcher, Hussain oversaw a sea change in the
mentality of the England cricket team. A fierce
competitor, he demanded that his players gave
everything on the field and made the side much
tougher to beat.
Often hamstrung by limited bowling resources, he was
always on his toes, sometimes making as many as four
field changes in a single over in an effort to break
After an inauspicious start - he was famously
booed on the balcony at The Oval after a home defeat
by New Zealand - Hussain led England to series
victories in Pakistan and Sri Lanka as he became the
first captain since Mike Brearley to win four Test
series in a row.
Aided by central contracts and Fletcher’s
no-nonsense approach, he ensured Michael Vaughan’s
inheritance was a team in the truest sense of the
But one frontier remained to be crossed: regaining
|HUW BEVAN, ENGLAND FITNESS COACH 2009-PRESENT
to the untrained eye, the difference in the fitness
levels and athleticism between the England team and
their Indian counterparts is striking.
Fielding coach Richard Halsall takes much of the
credit for their agility and skill, but the role of
Huw Bevan in turning them into true athletes should
not be overlooked.
A former rugby union hooker, Bevan was a
conditioning coach at Ospreys before joining the
England cricket set-up via Glamorgan.
He structures the indoor and outdoor fitness
sessions that are such a big part of a modern
sportsman’s training, and also oversaw Stuart Broad
and Steven Finn when they took time out of the game
for “strength and conditioning” training.
Many an eye-brow was raised at the decision among
the ex-cricketer fraternity but few were complaining
when both bowlers emerged leaner, stronger and with
deliveries regularly touching the 90mph mark.
“You only have to stand alongside one of the England
players to see that they are athletes not cricketers
now,” said BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew.
“They are incredibly fit and lean human beings and
they work astonishingly hard.” – [BBC]
|We want England to become the
Manchester United of cricket
By Stuart Broad
After not doing so well against Sri Lanka, I had to
work out what type of bowler I wanted to be and what
was the best way to take wickets and help the side.
I still say the wickets we played on against Sri
Lanka encouraged the use of the short ball but I had
to re-evaluate where I was at before facing India.
Going back to Notts the week before the first Test
and taking five wickets pitching the ball up showed
me the way I had to go and that gave me the
confidence for what has followed.
My bouncer is an effective weapon, and always will
be for me, but to use that ball once as a surprise
every over makes the fuller ball more dangerous. It
is the fuller delivery that has worked for me on the
wickets we have played on in this series and I think
we can call Tim Bresnan our enforcer now!
The Oval was a special place to be on Monday after
we had won, receiving that mace trophy and doing a
lap of the ground.
Not to mention the sight of Graeme Swann doing an
impression of Freddie Flintoff after taking his
fifth wicket. I wasn’t sure what on earth he was
doing at first but I gather that’s what it was
supposed to be!
A lot of hard work has gone into this series and
that was what we reflected on when we sat on the
outfield after everybody had gone.
The players thanked the management, Andy Flower
rounded things up and we were told to enjoy the
moment before coming back strong in a few days for
the one-day matches.
Celebrating as a team, after a big series win, is
one of the most special experiences. We had a few
beers in the changing room while watching Man United
against Spurs on TV and then went into London for a
few more. It’s not where you go, it’s the company
you keep and we have a very close-knit group.
Then, when I opened my hotel room door on Tuesday
morning, the first thing I saw in a paper was my
best mate Matt Prior drinking a bottle of champagne.
It was nice to see so much of us in those papers
and I think the public have enjoyed what we have
done this summer. The support in this series has
We spent a lot of time in the field at The Oval
after making India follow on. I must admit at lunch
I did wonder if we were going to win that final Test
and we missed a few chances to get Sachin Tendulkar
You could sense the crowd were waiting for his
hundred and were getting a bit nervous for him but
it was our job to make sure it didn’t happen.
Eventually we got our man and that was the big
We kept telling each other that once we got one
wicket others would follow because it wasn’t an easy
pitch to come in on, and then we did what we have
become good at over the last couple of years —
bursting through the opposition once we have an
We sat down at Lord’s as a bowling unit ahead of
the series to talk about the best plans of attack
for each of the India batsmen and those plans have
been executed perfectly. Only Rahul Dravid has got
on top of us.
Those ideas are not rocket science — going for the
top of off stump is still the best plan for most
occasions — but we had variations for each player
and worked as a team. From my point of view, I have
never bowled more consistently over a sustained
We want this to be the start of the legacy we aim to
create. We want to be successful for a long time,
like Man United has been, for one example.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if, in 20 years, people talked
about us and looked back fondly on what we had
achieved? It’s the target for us all.