The Indian cricket team has had their best moment of the decade and their worst moments of the decade within five months of each other. Let’s pick apart this corpse. Scalpel?
The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
First, there is a little hint as to the cause of death in these extremes: India’s best came in a limited overs tournament at home. India’s worst came in an away Test series.
Upfront, let me get this rant out of the way. First, a few assumptions:
- A different set of skills required for Twenty20 cricket when compared with Test cricket. They overlap, but not by much. Especially for bowlers.
- Twenty20, and specifically IPL, is here to stay.
- The financial incentives associated with Twenty20– specifically, the incentive imbalance– are here to stay.
This creates a lot of conflicts– for players, for the management, for every member of the cricket establishment.
We essentially have two different sports competing for the same set of resources. It’s like cricket and hockey were both called cricket and the teams for both were selected from the same pool of players. I don’t see a path for sustaining the bowling quality in all forms of the game without widening the talent pool and managing both formats as separate sports.
In short, there is a path from being an awesome Test bowler to an IPL star. There is no path in the opposite direction. Incentives must be developed if quality is to be maintained.
Day one of the tour game against Somerset was the first clue: 425/3 in 96 overs. But India are slow starters abroad, right?
The last day saw India lose 7 wickets for 21 runs in 15 overs. Slow finishers as well.
A Bowling Failure
India took 47 wickets in four Tests in 732 overs. Even in the tour matches, the bowlers managed 12 wickets in three innings across 220 overs.
It got progressively worse: 34 wickets in the first two Tests, 13 in the next two. You can’t win a Test match with bowling like that, regardless of how well you bat. The batsmen stood a chance at Trent Bridge, but their best case in every other game was a draw.
Of course, draws would have been awesome.
Sure, the batsmen failed as well. Except for Dravid.
Dravid did the opposite of failing, though I wouldn’t go as far as calling anything on this tour a success.
But I don’t think the batsmen should take even half of the blame for the series defeat. Sure, they are the stars. They are the best in the world. I can explain why, but I’ll let the always eloquent Kartikeya Date do it for me:
The batsmen were failing MA examination questions, while the bowlers were failing 8th grade examination questions.
The most disappointing thing about the batting is that everyone– everyone— got good starts in the first couple of Tests. Thirty, fifty balls or more the get their eye in.
And then, swat outside off-stump. Out.
Especially in the first Test:
- Mukund: 120 balls for 61 runs
- Gambhir: 102 balls for 37 runs
- Tendulkar: 116 balls for 56 runs
- Dhoni: 152 balls for 44 runs
- VVS: 149 balls for 66 runs
That’s a travesty.
The one positive from the series. Some may take Dravid as a positive, but really this is his last hurrah. Or second, or third last. But he will not be back in England for a Test series again.
Praveen will. I hope. We said the same thing about RP four years ago, and look– he came back.
Ok, bad analogy.
Of course, after four Test matches that were not even close, there isn’t any one thing you can point to as the cause of death. India were categorically outplayed, in every aspect of the game. You can blame the BCCI, or the IPL, or injury management, or talent management, but all of that is trying to explain away the simple fact.
That England is better at cricket.