Wednesday, August 24, 2011

4-0 to the Engerland.........

So what was mooted as a close contest turned into a one sided whitewash as England enjoyed their coronation as the World's No1 Test team in both glorious and ruthless style. For India there is almost nothing that can be taken from the series and the most worrying question for all Test Cricket lovers is do the Indian Cricket Board and many of the team actually care?

On many levels it is hard for English cricket fans to comprehend their team currently sitting at the pinnacle of the sport, such has been the generation length periods of mediocrity with only flashes of previous success. It is also hard to ascertain just how good this team actually might be given the penchant for playing everything down, for talking about the opposition being tired and injured, of the conditions being in England's favour, the list goes on.

What is for sure is that if it had been McGrath, Gillespie and Warne ripping through the India batting line up and Hayden, Ponting, Waugh and Martyn smashing the ball to all parts the talk would have been of what great players they are, the best in the World end of story. Substitute Anderson, Broad, Swann, Cook, Trott, Pietersen and Bell and the talk circles to almost finding excuses for their excelling. Gilchrist was often talked of as a game changer yet Matt Prior is doing the exactly the same at no7 for this England team as well as enjoying fantastic glove work.

In the likes of especially McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist we are of course talking about the all time greats and about players who did it over a vast amount of years. The point is not to suggest that the England players are necessarily at that level yet but that they are deserving of the plaudits and actually are as good as their statistics and rankings suggest - and that no one should be apologising for it.

One commentator suggested that so many runs are scored nowadays because of the lack of good bowling, there is no Ambrose, Walsh, Donald, Pollock, McGrath, Gillespie, Warne, Akram, Waqar, the list goes on but as oft is the case there is always romanticising of the past. It is true that the West Indies in particular have gone in to a steep decline but with the likes of the bowling talent in the current England team, Zaheer Khan, Harbajhan, Malinga, Vettori, the only just retired Murali and the outstanding South African pair of Steyn and Morkel there is still considerable world class bowling talent out there.

England however are not the finished article and the batting lineup is at the least one short. Eoin Morgans' technique looks suspect against high class seam bowling which at test level he will come up against especially against South Africa. Bopara also is simply not good enough and England must find some further young batting talent in the middle order as well as finding an option at opener to keep the pressure on Strauss in particular to score runs. The South African attack will not be so forgiving should the likes of Trott get injured again.

The seam attack options are superlative with Tremlett and Finn waiting in the wings but a genuine back up to Swann needs to be found now that Monty's star has seemingly fallen and given that his fielding is simply not up to modern day standards.

England, the likes of Flintoff and Harmison having moved on will this time hopefully not fall in to the trap of 2005, writing books and accepting medals and all thinking 'we've done it'. Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss must drive home the message that this is only the beginning and the success can be built on and they surely will.

For India, this has been a debacle from start to finish. Their calendar ensured they showed up late with little time for practise. With the exception of the truly remarkable Rahul Dravid, their batting line up was undercooked for the entire series. Their bowlers, shorn of their spearhead in Zaheer and their best spin option in Harbajhan offered little in the way of hope as their inability to bowl England out even once in an innings never mind twice showed so painfully.

When World No1s in any sport are beaten, it is usually by a fractional margin and certainly not to the degree of it not being a contest, that being the case there has to be another factor at work.

India will indeed point to fatigue and injuries but the reality is that it is India's unquenchable thirst for cricket on its' own shores that is causing these problems. The introduction of the IPL has been a wonderful one but with both it and the Champions League in the International calendar, there is simply no time for their players to rest.

The other issue at hand for India is that by playing so many T20 and OD Internationals, the skill set required for playing test cricket is gradually eroded and it was clear to see for all during this series. The likes of VVS and MS Dhoni continually got out playing shots with an open face. They were limited overs shots, not for a test field with a slip cordon. Sreesanth and Sharma bowled decent spells but couldn't replicate it two or three times in an innings as is required in a Test Match.

The talent of this current India team is without question and indeed their batting lineup contains some all time greats and possibly the all time great. The question is whether Test Cricket has a long term future in India and whether the Indian Cricket Board wishes to put the time, effort and most importantly emphasis on the longer format of the game or simply follow the quicker and far richer short formats.

Accordingly, India will give England a far greater fight in the OD Internationals and one T20 that will follow, indeed they may well win most of them. After all India have only just recently won the World Cup in such magnificent fashion and are the best one day team in the World, the question is whether it is all coming at the expense of the long term future of Test Cricket - No Nonsense.