Some Thoughts On What India’s 2-0 Win Means…

14 10 2010

Firstly we are going to start off with an apology to India.

Before the series started we had Australia as slight favourites – something that admittedly looks quite silly now and has seriously made us think about making any predictions in print again! Either we didn’t give India enough credit for being a genuinely number one rated side or, being English supporters with an understandable complex about Australian cricketers, we rated the Aussies as considerably better than they actually are. If truth be told it was probably a mixture of both these schools of thought although, having pondered this matter overnight, we are going to err on the side of India being comfortably the better team. Lets have a look at what this means for each side and finally England:

India

Whilst it is obvious to most people that India were a comfortably superior team in this series, particularly in the second test, the question has to be asked – does this mean they are definitely the number one side in the world? In a word – probably! However the undisputed nature of this premier status will not be settled until they start winning the big series overseas i.e. South Africa and Australia away. Over the next 12  months they have the opportunity to do this as well as coming up against a good (and potentially Ashes holding) England side next Summer. What this series has done is proved to us, the previously unconverted, that the necessary grit – much more than the talent – is there and that in theory India are able to do this.

A second aspect of India’s performance that was pleasing to anyone worried about the potential retirement of any of their batting greats was the runs scored by both Murali Vijay and the young Pujara on debut. Vijay, it is true, has been around for a while and will be especially pleased with what could be his breakthrough innings. As with all Indian batsman who have not really been tested overseas on hard and bouncy tracks, slight doubts will persist until he has scored runs in South Africa in January but, for us at the Compulsive Hooker, he looks the part.

Cheteshwar Pujara

The future of Indian batting though is almost certainly Pujara. Outdone by the pitch and a near unplayable delivery in the first innings, what struck us when he was promoted to number 3 in the second innings was partly his extraordinary confidence, but mostly his incredible shot making – particularly through the off side. Anyone who averages 60 in first class cricket and has scored three triple hundreds already is clearly a good player and we felt we were watching the future of Indian batting. Symbolically coming out at number 3 in the fourth innings ahead of the great Rahul Dravid, perhaps this was truly a passing of the baton.

It was not all roses however as India will need to find a second and third wicket taking pace bowler to assist Zaheer Khan on overseas pitches where spin plays less of a part. Sharma was useful with the bat but flattered to deceive with the ball prior to his injury in the first test, whereas the 80’s throwback, Sreesanth, whilst improving throughout the second test, was still decidedly average on the whole.

Finally there is no praise high enough for the great Sachin Tendulkar who, in the absence of any runs from Sehwag and Dravid, carried the Indian batting in both games (with a duly deferential nod to Laxman in the first test and Vijay in the second) and has proved why he was labelled ICC Cricketer of the Year. Like a fine wine he keeps getting better and better and long may this continue.

Australia

Three test losses on the bounce, a blunt bowling attack and a batting line up that collapsed twice at crucial points in either game – things are looking dicey for the Australians. It is true that they are not a bad side overnight and should possibly have won the first test but they will be glad that it is only a two test series all the same. The beauty of test cricket is that there is nowhere to hide. The longer you play the more likely you are to be found out and so it was.

Prior to this series the Compulsive Hooker was still slightly fearful of this Australian side – simply because of their nationality more than anything else (years of England being crushed take their toll you know…) Now it is a different story and our eyes have been well and truly opened to the vulnerabilities of this team.

The bowling was mediocre with even the admirable Hilfenhaus being reduced to an unpenetrative trier. Johnson, whilst still able to bowl the odd ‘jaffa’ is always likely to spray it around too much to ever build up much pressure and as for Hauritz… Well suffice to say – ordinary is not the word. It is true that Indian batsman have a history of taking apart Australian spinners (and bowlers far finer than the honest Hauritz), yet on this performance we don’t even think he would be a threat to the average Englishman. Peter George looked raw, slightly ridiculous and not particularly threatening (it is his first test so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment) whilst Bollinger, prior to injury in the first test, was all ‘huff but no puff’. It is true that at home on bouncy Australian tracks the Aussie line up will be more threatening, however this series has served to reinforce the fact that to England, in the upcoming Ashes, there is no reason at all to be overly worried about this bowling line up.

The batting was again frail and a couple of players including Hussey and, perhaps, still North will be under pressure to deliver. Ponting provided a couple of workmanlike efforts although the fluency and certainty appear to have gone the same way as Dravid’s.

All in all it was a far from satisfactory performance and one that England can only take heart from.

England

Truly this is England’s finest opportunity for 20 years to win an overseas Ashes series. We and many other pundits have said this several times already but this series has only served to reinforce this feeling. With many Australians expressing doubt that England’s bowlers have what it takes to make an impact down under, we feel that on this front we are at least on a par with the Aussies – if not slightly above them with the addition of Graeme Swann. Home advantage obviously counts for a lot but where we feel the Ashes will be won and lost is in the batting. Whoever can perform more consistently and score bigger runs will win the series – something that right now we feel is too close to call.

Either way we are already highly excited and cannot wait for it all to begin.

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9 responses

14 10 2010
Dingo

Wow, not even a mention of how England are now rated above Australia in the rankings? when was the last time this happened? and to be fair to Bollinger, he was bowling well before his unfortunate injury. India will have play quite substantially better to win overseas, they’re over reliance on the spinners is comforting in India, but not sure it will cut it in too many other places. And their inability batting against fast bouncy stuff will be tough in places like SA and Oz. But Your dead right about Aussie batting and bowling, totally clueless against spin and once the ball is worn, the old problem of reverse swing created havoc. We did look ok against the new ball though!

14 10 2010
Bradders

Haha – forgot about that – although truth be told I felt I was getting a little bullish anyway and might be forced to eat my words come January…

14 10 2010
BP

I know that English and Aussie fans are reluctant to accept the reality of India being No. 1 in Tests, but aside from this 2-0 triumph, consider the following facts: 1) Over the last 10 years, India are the ONLY team to have a net +ve win-loss record vs. Aus; and Indian wins include AWAY WINS at Adelaide and Perth, while Sydney ’08 could arguably have been on this list but for Steve Bucknor. 2) India have already beaten Eng in Eng (1-0) on their last trip there (2007). 3) India were highly competitive on their last trips to both SA (2007) and Aus (2008), losing 2-1 each time in 2 very closely contested series. 4) This current Indian team has won 3 tests in a row CHASING in the 4th INNINGS — in SL before this series and now vs. Aus., showing tremendous character and skill to accomplish each challenging task. 5) India have now won 3 tests in a row despite SIGNIFICANT INJURIES to the squad — in SL, Zaheer and Harbhajan were absent, while in this series, VVS and Ishant played injured in Test 1 (so India were down to 9 men in the 1st inngs.) and missed out on Test 2 along with Gambhir. 6) Dhoni has now LOST 10 TOSSES in a row, but India have still WON 7 of those tests. 7) Applying the overseas win logic, none of SA, Eng and Aus has won a test series in India in the last 6 years (or in SL for that matter), and so are unworthy of the top spot.

To end — yes, very little separates the top 2-3 teams, but no other team has displayed the consistency, character, skill and style that India have over the last 2 years. Deservedly, they are ranked No. 1.

14 10 2010
Bradders

Hi BP,
Thanks for your comments – very well argued indeed. I don’t mean to sound reluctant to accept India are number one – clearly you are at the moment and this series win has only served to reinforce that point. I only mean (and I think this is what most people mean when they talk about India’s number one status) that India are not yet the dominant side in world cricket. To be totally dominant in the way that Australia and the Windies were over the past 30 years is another thing altogether. I do feel however that Australia in Aus is a totally different kettle of fish and believe they would still be slight favourites – as now perhaps England in England would be too. England are a totally different side to the one in 2007. Your next series against South Africa will be interesting as it is in SA and as I say, agreed India are deservedly ranked number one, but India are still have some hurdles to cross prior to claiming ‘undisputed champion of the world’ status!

I believe test cricket is fascinating at the moment due to its competitive nature and the closeness of the teams (let us also not forget Sri Lanka as India’s record away there isn’t brilliant over the last few years).

Anyway, thanks for commenting.

14 10 2010
BP

Thanks for your reponse, Bradders. And good blog! (Just came across it today)

The problem I have with the ‘acceptance reluctance’ syndrome I referred to is this — no reasonable follower of Indian cricket (or ex-player commentator, or even current Indian player) has EVER claimed that India are as dominant as the WI side of the 70s/80s or Steve Waugh’s Aussies.

All that this group, and I, (and the ICC ratings) rightfully claim is this — at present, India have EARNED the right to be ranked No. 1 in Tests.

Hence, I find it rather unclassy, and illogical, that many English & Aussie fans (and columnists) try to undermine India’s No. 1 ranking by arguing that they are not yet an all-time great team. Well, the FACT is THERE IS NO ALL-TIME GREAT TEAM AT PRESENT!

But of the current teams, India have been the most consistent in the last 2 years, and hence they are the No. 1 Test side. Yes, India’s SL record could be better — a 1-1 draw this year and a 2-1 loss in 2008 — but note that even against them we have a net +ve W/L record (given that we hammered them 2-0 last year in India, and they haven’t even won a single Test in India).

And I repeat, and request, that the same overseas win logic needs to be applied to Eng, Aus and SA… for which was the last overseas series win for ANY of them against a top-ranked team??? Eng need to prove themselves away from home, starting with the Ashes, as they have not won overseas in a long time; SA won in Aus but then lost to them at home and couldn’t beat Eng at home, or India in India; Aus won in SA but then lost to Eng, tied with Pak and have now been beaten 2-0 in India.

So I completely agree with you that the competition in Test cricket is truly fascinating at present. But I also maintain that India have earned their present Test ranking, and no other team has proven itself more worthy over the last 2 years.

PS: My Ashes prediction — given that the 2 sides are quite well-matched, I see home advantage (conditions and crowd support) proving to be the DECISIVE factor. Aus to win 2-1. Eng win possible for sure, but not probable, IMHO.

15 10 2010
Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog

Bradders, I think you are right in your view that the Ashes will probably be decided by the batting and for me it will probably depend on England’s batting, more so.

I have thought for a while now that England’s bowlers are good enough to get 20 wickets if enough ‘scoreboard’ pressure is applied to the Aussies.

If England go out and only get scores of 250-300 in the first innings then they are going to be on the back foot. If they go out to bowl with 450 plus, runs on the board, then they will have enough runs to be more attacking.

The Aussie batting looks more susceptible to a bit of pressure these days. Four years ago (like in Adelaide) they would more often than not (batting 2nd) matched a large total from their opponents.

Now I see a more fragile batting line up more likely to crumble, like Englands.

I know that all sounds fairly obvious, but I firmly believe England’s batsmen have to up their game substantially if we are to win/retain the Ashes.

Personally I’m not sure if our batsmen are good enough to do it, one or two of them aren’t as good as we are continually told they are.

It’s a shame as it looks like we have a good enough attack.

15 10 2010
BP

I pretty much second the above thoughts by Dean. England’s bowling arsenal is looking pretty impressive these days given Swann’s, as well as Broad’s, ascent. And the Australian batting has certainly been showing vulnerability.

I do hope for England’s sake that Anderson lives up to potential in Australia…especially in the 1st Test at the Gabba. Given the helpful bowling conditions there, Anderson should have the opportunity to rock the Aussies early…but will he deliver? Will just have to wait to find out…

PS: Btw, Sachin Tendulkar had said a little while back that he was impressed with Eoin Morgan, and expected him and Swann to be 2 key players in the Ashes. (Though of course, it will take a massive team effort to beat the Aussies in their den.)

15 10 2010
BP

I can hardly believe this!!! Anderson injures his ribs in a BOXING MATCH with a teammate!!! This is FRIGGIN’ RIDICULOUS!!! Is this the way to prepare for Test cricket??? Against your fiercest rivals…in their backyard!

And we have Ian Bell talking up his opponents, saying that they are still favourites!!! And basically saying that their Indian defeat means nothing!!! RIDICULOUS!!! It is one thing for a retired or neutral cricket expert to concede this, but why the hell should an English Ashes campaigner help to rebuild Australia’s confidence???

Sorry, Bradders. But all this has just increased my conviction in my 2-1 to Aus prediction.

15 10 2010
Bradders

Haha I know I read Bell’s comments too but its just mind games i’m guessing. the English hate being favourites (especially against Australia) and so I suspect that is actually just something to make Bell feel better.

As for Anderson – I know totally ridiculous – and have just written something about it here: https://compulsivehooker.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/anderson-out-of-opening-ashes-test/. Possibly scraping the barrel with my inteperation but I leave it to you and all other readers to correct me!

As for my prediction I am saving it for an official Ashes preview closer to the time due to the fact I am so frequently wrong…

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