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Shockwaves running through Indian cricket

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Tue, Aug 30, 2010

Editor: Shockwaves are sweeping through all levels of Indian cricket, from the boardroom of the official authority, the BCCI, right down to fanatical spectators.{{more}} This follows the comprehensive drubbing of their hallowed national team, which embarked on a four-Test tour of England, as the world’s leading cricket nation. Not only did the team surrender the crown to England, but they were so badly beaten that India suffered its first whitewash since 1999/2000, when it lost

a three-Test series 3-0 to Australia.

This time India lost all four Tests, its first such loss for 43 years, since being flogged by a similar margin, again by Australia on its home grounds in 1967/8. India had previously suffered humiliating whitewashes when on tour in England in 1959 and in the Caribbean in 1962. On both occasions, the tourists, notoriously bad away from home, lost all five Tests played. That West Indies crushing was at the hands of the Frank Worrell team, fresh from the glorious 1960/1 tour of Australia and with the likes of Sobers, Kanhai, Hunte, Hall and Gibbs in full cry.

In recent times, hardly has a top-ranked team in world cricket lost its unofficial ‘title’ in so ignominious a manner. Even when the newly-crowned one-day champions, the West Indies, were beaten 5-1 on their next assignment in Australia, 1975/76, umpiring decisions had a lot to do with the outcome and the West Indies did not meekly surrender, its lone victory being by an innings.

India never looked the part and its players were outshone in all departments. The statistics bear this out. Two English batsmen, Pietersen and Bell, amassed over 500 runs each for the four-Test series, while four others averaged more than 50 per innings. Crucially, where the outcome of the series was concerned, these included Nos. 7 (Prior), 8 (Bresnan) and 9 (Broad), providing England with invaluable lower-order runs.

The much-vaunted Indian batting line-up never roared, and save for one or two flickers, the tail never wagged. Only Rahul Dravid, his confidence restored from a fine tour of the Caribbean, could hold his head high. He was the only batsman on either side to score three centuries, and his 461-run total could have been more, but for two questionable dismissals. No other batsman, not Tendulkar, Laxman, Dhoni nor Gambhir, could average more than 40 per innings, while the return of Sehwag ended in abject failure.

The bowling departments revealed similar disparities. The English seamers, led by Anderson, with Broad and Bresnan putting in excellent all-round performances, broke the back of the Indian batting on every single occasion. By contrast, only the swing of Praveen Kumar, for India, showed any respectable returns. Spin was not a deciding factor in the series, but England’s Swann came into his own late in the series, though his 13 wickets cost more than 40 runs apiece. Still, this was many times better than the Indian spinners, Harbhajan and Mishra collecting only two wickets between them at well over 100 runs per wicket.

The Indians can point to unfortunate injuries, that to Zaheer Khan in particular, who looked like routing England on the first morning, but never took the field again, being the biggest blow. But they were underprepared, may have taken their No.1 ranking as a sign of infallibility, and paid the consequences. The creaking bones of their front-line batsmen may have had something to do with it and the youngsters were just not up to task. They must now rebuild and retool.

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