When Joe Root fended off a harmless little leg-break from Gautam Gambhir (yes, you heard right) on the final day of the India-England Nagpur Test, the fourth test of a historic series, Team India had reached it’s lowest cricketing point since 2000. Arguably, even worse than 2000, a 0-2 home defeat to South Africa fresh off the match fixing scandal- considering the situation just 18 months ago in 2011.
The last test match at Nagpur was a battle between a team that was desperate to win and a team that was desperate to avoid defeat. Defense has never served England well in the subcontinent, but this was a series of firsts. Captain Cook didn’t trouble the scorers much for the third time in succession, but the balls and hours at the crease just added up- as was the need of the hour. Of course, umpire Dharmasena proved that he was always most likely to claim the stoic Captain’s wicket, with two consecutive howlers saving India the blushes (read grinded to death).
Coming 2-1 down into the final test, India needed something special from its special players. Instead, their bowlers took more than 5 sessions to bowl England out in the first 2 days, and it was left to their superstar batsmen to convert this into a result other than a draw. Oddly enough, all the skill and talent in the world that India possess(ed) wasn’t enough to force a a better run rate- and Kohli and Dhoni’s brave but painfully slow rearguard action to avoid defeat (always a first priority for Indians) confirmed that the baton was now passed onto the tired bowlers once again in order to force a result. While the team played passing the parcel, England’s only two out-of-form batsmen found form in the final 5 sessions- ending the test just as they had started it: solid and purposeful in defense, killing off the test in favour of a once-in-a-lifetime result for touring Englishmen.
Tough questions, tougher answers.
The Nagpur test was the second slowest in terms of run-rate (2.6) since 2000, and the slowest in India overall. It was good, hard test cricket from England– and failure of execution could have led to a lot of ridicule, because defensive failures looks a lot worse than attack failure. Ask Sachin Tendulkar.
With the stats quickly loading in favour of them, England did not need to look backmuch in order to realize that failing to defend a test by playing for time could have ended in embarrassment- their opponents were the most successful failures at trying to save a test in any manner. And so it was, the first time in 28 years that England won a series in India- and the first time ever that a touring side won from 1-0 down in India. Revenge, indeed, for an imploding Indian team of ageing greats: atleast they didn’t lose 4-0 again. 6-1 in the last 7 tests against a decent English team is not highly humiliating, but it is not exactly a high point for a team that has prided itself on its home record for decades. Atleast the 2-1 loss to Australia in 2004 was due to the likes of McGrath, Warne, Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden and Langer looking for their own revenge and conquering the final frontier.
The final frontier for this current Indian test team is a far cry from what it was after winning the world cup- winning in Australia and South Africa, or even at Home for that matter, now seems a distant dream. Winning, in general, remains a lesser possibility after the worst 16 months in their history. Right now, their final frontier could very well be batting at no. 4, contemplating selflessness over pure love and joy for the game.
Well Of Course, maybe they deserved to win.
India vs England is not a rivalry anymore. It is a foregone conclusion. RIP Indian Cricket, Long Live Indian Cricket. Moaning over non-existent wholesale changes needed in the lineup will be our pastime till the next Home Series, but right now, even a Home series is not of much comfort anymore.
The time has come. T20 and ODI cricket will be ‘revenge’. Short term memory losses aren’t really an Indian-fan thing anymore, though.