The worst part about being an Indian cricket fan is the short-term memory loss that comes as part of the package. Usually, it’s a strategically-placed IPL or senseless West Indies Tour that revives the most cynical fans after a sorry overseas tour. This time, it will be a 5-match ODI series against a weak English ODI team followed by—you guessed it—the Champions League T20. By then, Dhoni’s most staunch critics will have forgotten that he has the maximum overseas losses to his credit as Indian captain and the worst ratio in international cricket since being crowned World Champions in 2011.
England haven’t been the best Test team in the last three years. They have gone through their own problems, changes, transitions and volatile issues—with their best batsman Peitersen not even playing for them anymore. A 5-0 Ashes whitewash forced Trott and Swann into early retirements, and Cook has looked a beleaguered young choir-boy—far from the batsman tipped to break Sachin Tendulkar’s test batting records. But somehow, this English team has terrorized “World Champions” India since 2011 in a way the mighty Aussies had in the 90s. A 4-0 whitewash in 2011 was followed by the most impressive reverse 1-2 in India, before this young Indian team came to Nottingham as equals—with both teams down in the dumps, England fresh from losing their first-ever Test Series at Home to Sri Lanka.
It was always going to be about who would be redeemed and play the lesser amount of bad cricket over 5 gruelling tests. It turned out to be a less than gruelling series though, with the final 3 tests lasting for 3 or less days each. You’d think the Indian team would know what to do with the extra free time on hand, but trust them to completely lose their spine, spirit and sense in one of the most inept displays they have ever given on foreign soil. If the common fan thought that it couldn’t get worse than Old Trafford, the Oval saw a pathetic Indian team fall to their third heaviest Test defeat in their history.
After Lords, not many expected this. Analysts were still positive about England’s chances, but nobody could have predicted what followed.
The final 3 tests of the series lasted a total of 9 playing days, or even less, and saw the Indian batting collapse in an unparalleled display that even Pakistan (in Sri Lanka) couldn’t emulate.
The statistics are astounding, but that doesn’t tell half the story.
It doesn’t tell you how Kohli and Pujara literally gave up trying by the time the second innings at the Oval began, or how Dhoni continued to drill in the “process is more important than the result” statement after every bad loss. This 1-3 series loss was even worse, in a way, than the 0-4 back in 2011 in the way an entire team collectively capitulated after an encouraging beginning. In 2011, there was no chance from the first Test itself, and the ageing legs were clearly the reason in a tired team. Here, there has been no reason. The margin of defeats have been so severe, that even the 0-4 in Australia looked mild compared to this. It was hard, by the end, to see 11 professional athletes look like they didn’t belong anywhere next to a cricket ground—not in their minds, but in their hearts.
The bowlers were, in fact, quite good for a majority of the series.
Aaron injected some pace into a one-pitched lineup and Ishant sort of fulfilled promises that were made a decade ago. But you’d be damned if you found a batting team that managed the score 66-6 for 4 innings in a row. That’s near impossible, even if you take into consideration their abysmal test record outside India after becoming World Champions. England have destroyed India in every manner, winning 9 tests and losing just 2 out of 13 tests since 2011. No other team has dominated India in this way, with Australia winning 4-0 at Home and promptly losing 4-0 to India in India. Of course, the genius minds at BCCI have come up with their usual way to distract the Indian fan from the sorry state of affairs, by inviting—who else—but West Indies for a meaningless 3-match Test series before they head to Australia to face a team that is a far cry from the clueless young team that lost 4 tests in India in 2013. This Australian team not only defeated England 5-0 in the Ashes, but went on to win a Test Series in South Africa (The best team in the world) to dethrone them from their position—even leading to the retirement of Graeme Smith.
Vijay and Rahane, who began the Test Series looking like inspired souls, ended it with a whimper. Kohli finished with the second lowest average by a no. 4 in a 5 Test Series, and Pujara’s woes from New Zealand carried on in an unprecedented manner. Gambhir may have finally played his last international match at the Oval, and Dhoni will somehow continue to be Test Captain after this.
If you wonder how the Salman Khan film “Kick” can make more than 220 crores in a country that thrives on deriving entertainment out of mediocrity, think again, because Duncan Fletcher will continue to be the coach of this team for another year.