Ascendancy rent asunder
The nagging feeling remains that India proposes to rest little until finally it ascends to the throne of total dominance of world cricket. Clearly this ambition has been partly realized within context of the shorter versions of the game. The mega bucks of the Indian Premier League shout this out stridently enough. What is left to be achieved is an assuring of the status of an omnipotent colossus by capturing top position in Test cricket.
Make no mistake, the unadulterated filthy lucre fails to supplant all sober judgment that the longer version of cricket in the final analysis proves to be the true litmus test as to what elite supremacy is all about. You can wallow as much as you want in the contrived tastefulness of instant gaiety, the purity of cricket as the transcendent pastime is more to be revealed in fullness of the marathon than in the flashiness of a sprint. The one likens to the swiftness of the Cheetah- erupted in bare seconds and instantly extinguished --- and the other to the sustained strength of the lion or even the sustained elusiveness of the antelope.
Given its undoubted financial clout, the Indians need only to feature at the top of the world cricket seen for even a brief period for them to go full hog to surgically dismember world cricket into opposed compartments of a big and a little league. The former would list England, Austrailia, South Africa, and India (of course) and possible Sri Lanka or Pakistan outside such a group would be West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and any others of a weaker assemblage.
We may take the unfolding of the just concluded England versus India series as manifestly providing a strong essence to the depth of disappointment to oriental ambitions. As it turned out, there was evidence that England, with greater mastery of their more potent skills, could have come off 5-nil victors rather than the 3-1 outcome that transpired.
Trent Bridge as an opener to the series provided encouragement to India who exulted with 457 and 391 for 9 to which England posted 496 in reply. Lords brought the Indian cup to overflowing. Dhoni and his men saw their efforts of 295 and 342 sufficient to snatch victory. England's 319 and 223 not good enough to restrain India from winning by 95 runs and a lead of 1- nil in the series.
Predictably at this point, all talk centered on a perplexing turnaround in England's fortunes. Having basked in the limelight of back to back series wins over Australia, they plummeted to a 5- nil disaster against the Aussies and earlier in the year actually fell victim to Sri Lanka on English soil. Biting chatter actually spewed the venom of suggesting hints of Alistair Cook might be relieved from the captaincy amid his run of poor form at the top of the batting.
There was little sympathy for the fact that Cook was somewhat new to leadership role and on top of this had found himself having to operate without the services of some senior members of his team who had retired for one reason or another. Trott, Peterson, Swann etc. not any more available. New men had come in to dance to not so familiar drum beats.
If ever there was time for Cook to shake himself out of his own self-pity for his disasterous run of failures with the bat and above all to galvanize his men to action—motivated by the assurances of the quality borne by undoubted technical superiority, particularly in pace bowling, it was indeed now.
It took that long – and a threat of a serious downhill slide to rouse England into action. In no uncertain way the England players rallied behind their captain for the 3rd Test at Southampton. A mammoth 569 for 7 declared (Cook 95, Bell 167, Ballance 156,) smothered India 330 and added to that, 205 for 4 declared in England's second innings was much too much for India who lost by 266 runs.
Unbelievably apart from the potent resurgence of pacers Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad there was the inspired emergence of the heavily bearded Moeen Ali to provide utter discomfiture for India with, of all things, spin bowling!
You would have thought batsmen brought up on Indian pitches and against Indian bowling would have all the answers needed to face up to spin. However, it did not turn out that way. Seemed the shock of facing up to relentlessly well directed fast bowling softened up Dhoni's men and rendered them thoughtless in dealing with the slow stuff.
With the series leveled at one apiece, Old Trafford, Manchester came into the picture, India took the gamble to send in England, despite a delayed start and threat of rain with conditions overcast. Disaster followed. India all out for 152, representing really a bit of a recovery after 8 for 3 and 60 for 5. England needed no second innovation and declared at 367 for 9. Second time around india perished for 161 --- defeated by an innings and 54 runs in under a full three days. A very clear case of being completely demoralized.
Very sad evidence of this surfaced in the report that Dhoni, far from staying with the rest of the team to address itself to the business of using all available time for net practice in the interim, opted to distance himself playing some rounds of golf. His reply to pressed suggestions that he might have stayed on hand to talk to his men about their approach to technical aspects of their batting, summarily indicated he had been talking to them for a whole month.
Fully resigned then was Dhoni for the inevitable fate of outcome of the fifth and concluding Test at the Oval. England sent India in and blasted them out for 148 to which England responded with 486 in which Joe Root remained undefeated on 149. Dhoni, whose 82 in the first innings stood out as monument, then fell for a duck and India, furthered their ability to collapse against good pace, surrendered for 94 and with that one of their worst defeats – by an innings and 244 runs.
England had out batted, out bowled and out fielded India as comprehensively as anyone could imagine. Only in the bowling did India seem reasonably capable but they suffered from being sub-standard in the extreme by comparison with England in the area of fielding. In this they were simply not up to par.
Ample proof has been provided of India at the moment having most of their strength on their own batting surfaces tailored potently towards aiding spin bowling. How they will seek to deal will this is left to be seen. But Dhoni's poignant shrugging of the shoulders in face of indifference by his top batsmen to the need to adapt to demands of specific situations is a story in itself. Batsmen like Ghambir Kohli, Binny, Ashwin and others are nothing less than outright superstars at home in India. Possibly a pointer for the time being that stalemate may persist with all dogs equally strong in their own backyards will continue. England are masters at doctoring their own pitches to suit their bowlers. Only the West Indies display a lack of certification in this respect.