Dhoni and Cook on a road to redemption
Absolute domination followed by destruction. This sentence aptly surmises the ruthless manner of Australian hegemony over the world of Test cricket in the nineties led by its golden generation of proud men donning whites and baggy greens in all their glory. Not to forget the countable feeble resistances that they endured and subsequently thwarted in their path at home and then going on to capture the final frontier in the sub continent. Their glorious on-field antics notwithstanding, the manner of their defeats were an inspiration in itself.
Not that it was something perpetual. The warhorses soon grew old and hung up their boots. The regeneration, they said, will take some time. That signalled a transition and the throne that was for theirs to keep suddenly seemed slipping. The world sensed an opportunity but from that time and still counting, the throne has been searching for its rightful master--someone possessing the same ruthlessness and pride as the Australians. Not that there haven't been any suitors.
A list that includes the chokers, the Poms and the tigers of world cricket have at different points of time, laid their claim. They all managed to reach the pinnacle but failed to maintain the stranglehold or at least build and sustain an aura that their much fancied predecessor mastered.
If a proof was needed, the last eight months have been a perfect example of the gulf between a champion and a prospective. Twice has been a team that was supposedly the “best in the world” humbled and subjected to a whitewash. India and England, after achieving the 'top dog' status, travelled to foreign shores smelling blood in the waters of their opponents with the hope of conquering them and thus proving the naysayers and critics in the wrong. The teams, instead found themselves living their worst nightmares, terrorized to their bones that they surrendered without offering a fight. If seam and swing was India's nemesis, England's obituary was authored by the spin.
In their defeats too, India and England, failed to show any resistance, rather, they offered themselves in a platter that even surprised their sceptic opponents. What these defeats have taught us is the gross inability of both the teams to cope in alien conditions. One of the team has annoyingly claimed to mete out the exact treatment to their opponents on their home turf, thus offering a fallacious argument of it being a “natural phenomenon”. If it is of any satisfaction, England has been more forthcoming in their defeats than India-accepting rather than offering excuses.
For all their ambitions of being world beaters, playing to their strength alone, can be a precursor in setting a rot that ultimately causes heartburn when anticipations are sky high, especially in hostile conditions.
The Australians, at their peak, had the best possible combination of world class players coupled with the fact that most of them were considered as ‘big match player’ (Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist being the most illustrious of the lot). Not only had they a solid opening pair in Langer and Hayden, a stubborn middle order and a wagging tail, there bowlers-both pacers and spinners were a class apart. Not to forget their electric fielding. To summarise they had every ingredient necessary to build a champion team.
Comparatively, the Indian and England sides of today are found wanting in one aspect or the other. Take the example of India. For their entire batting prowess, they have always failed to produce a complimentary bowling department. Their fielding, though, has improved but their bowling has been their Achilles heel.
England can revel in their new battery of bowling all-rounders, capable of making the opposition dance to their tunes, both with the willow and cherry, as the series against India proved. Their batsmen also put up considerably solid performances. However, their weakness was again laid bare in the recently concluded Test series in the middle-east where the sub continent conditions proved to be a goblet of fire. The pitches supporting tweakers to the full showed their batsmen in poor light as if they were naïve.
For England, India can be a lesson for they have stumbled once while India twice. For their next tryst with the subcontinent conditions in March, they will be carrying a burden heavier than what they have endured so far since dismantling India from the perch of Test rankings. The Lanka tour provides an opportunity at achieving what India failed to accomplish in Australia. It goes without saying that a win will certainly raise and restore their profile as a fighting unit. As for India, they have lost the opportunity to do so. For them the next two years will throw up a challenge to rebuild their team and iron out the wrinkles. The agony of eight straight Test defeats should haunt, spurring them to write a whole new chapter when they tour South Africa in December 2013.