So the “men in blue” brought back the smiles and gifted us a great Diwali. India’s 5-0 whitewash can’t really be equated with Lord Ram’s revenge over Raavan, nor elevated to one for the summer of 2011.
Nevertheless, it was a victory. One that will remain more memorable than the previous 5-1 and 5-0 thrashings handed out to the same team in the same country, within the past decade.
I recall how in 1983, West Indies came to India seething with anger and gave us a similar battering. Could that 5-0 series win be equated as a revenge for a World Cup final loss? No. Yet, Indian fans like me, who endured that horror show (after raised expectations), remember that series. And also remember it came after a historical world cup. Similarly, I hope twenty seven years down the line, English fans will remember their best year in cricket, in past couple of decades, was followed by a hopeless 5-0 performance.
Hopeless it was. How often do you see a team crumble and lose ten wickets for 47 runs from a commanding position? In three of the five one day matches, Captain Cook’s team had the game within their control at certain instances and every time they lost their grip, and looked clueless during the process. India were as merciless, as they were clinical.
a) Over the five ODIs, India’s 8.15 runs given as extras, is almost half of what was donated to them by England. Extras are a good indicator of the discipline of a bowling unit. Additional extras mostly lead to additional deliveries and that in turn contributes to a swelling run tally. For this, the bowlers, Eric Simmons and Duncan Fletcher deserve pat on the backs.
b) England’s outstanding player of the series was Steven Finn. At 8 wickets and economy of 5.3, he is being considered the biggest plus for England. This in itself came as bit of a surprise, as on sub-continental wickets we expected the Swan(n) to fly, ultimately the Fin(n) flew higher.
Compared to the lanky pacer’s figures, there were four Indian bowlers who gave less than five per over during the series – quiet funnily all of them were slow bowlers – Jadeja (11 wickets), Ashwin (10 wickets), Raina and Kohli!!
c) The most noticeable aspect of English batting was off-course a well known problem – lack of serious firepower. None of the Poms could muster a strike rate above 100 in the series barring Craig Kieswetter, who just about managed that number. Even if I lower the benchmark to batsmen (not tail enders) who averaged a strike rate of over 90, only Samit Patel joins the list. Comparatively, five Indian batsmen averaged with a strike rate of over 90. Barring Jadeja, each of the other four scored in excess of 180 runs in a five game series! One of them stayed not out the entire series!
d) Not to forget the fielding. Unfortunately the game and its telecasting companies don’t give enough weight-age to runs saved, as much as they give to boundaries scored. People forget an excellent dive by a close in fielder to save a boundary is more value than a boundary hit. Simply because, the batsmen gets doubly cautious not to hit or attempt a run whenever the ball reaches that fielder. It impacts the batsmen for his entire innings and beyond.
Manoj Tiwary’s flying catch at Wankhede was as deserving a Man of the Match performance as Raina anger laden 80 off 62 balls. When Tiwary leaped, England were 128/3 in the 27th over and Kevin Pietersen looking dangerous at 41. They were on course for a 250-270 score. Considering India stuttered in their chase to 46/3 in the 14th over, this looks a bigger catch taken.
Had England scored 260, the asking rate at 46/3 would have been 6.0 for 36 overs. But after Tiwary completed the stunner, England scraped to 220. This meant the asking rate at 46/3 was a meagre 4.83. As a result, India had the luxury to let the rate go up while Raina and Kohli played themselves in. This wasn’t possible had England scored 260. Winning such key moments ensures ruthless whitewashes such as this.
Yes, it wasn’t just about England’s inability to counter slow bowlers, or their abysmal batting strike rates, or their on-field blooper, or the reasons India faced in England (Injuries, Rains, UDRS, Duckworth Lewis); It was just an India XI which played above themselves, with just half the squad which played the World Cup.
Should we view this result, seriously? We should. This was less of a revenge series, more of redemption. This win, mentally, sets us on route to our Australian tour. In between we have a soft series to give rest to certain players and get certain players match fit. Had we this ODI series gone close, we would have asked more questions off ourselves.
And don’t forget England’s arrival. They arrived with massive confidence behind them. Entire world predicted a tightly contested series. The newly crowned world no.1 test team thought they did all the right things. They picked the same set of players who beat India in 3-0 in the same format, at home. They arrived 10 days before (for five ODIs which were actually played over 11 days)! Despite ECB and BCCI at loggerheads, they got two practices games in the same venue as the first ODI. Yet they got decimated.
This begs for a question. England’s cricketing fraternity had gone ballistic after India were walloped 4-0 in the test series. All their talk centered around how India underestimated the preparation aspect – arriving early, adjusting to conditions, respecting conditions, mentally preparing for a big away series, playing more side games and not playing IPL! Well! England did the perfect preparation, they didn’t play IPL too (!) but got walloped. The question to ask is, while I admit India went under prepared, but then, how much preparation is the right preparation?