India secured a fabulous Test victory at the Home of Cricket after 28 years but India’s gutsy performance makes this win more special to me. India have won in the past overseas and will win in the future as well but victories like Headingly 2002, Durban 2006 and Lord’s 2014 will always be more remembered because of the conditions they were secured in.
Green pitches were prepared to favour home teams on each occasion and every time India were required to put up gutsy performances. The Indian teams stood up all the time. It goes to show that every time an opposition prepares a surface with help for the bowlers, India’s attack becomes capable of picking 20 wickets.
Indian teams actually want such tracks to be laid out. Barring 2011, India’s batting in the last 14 years has done well in overseas conditions. This is a very encouraging aspect of Indian cricket. To me, this win has immense value. Losing a toss on this pitch was a huge disadvantage and what stood out for me was that not once were India behind England on any of the five days.
If India had bowled first on this pitch, I believe England would not have got past 150. There were some fabulous performances – and match-winning ones – as well for India. Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay showed technique is so important for Test cricket in seaming conditions. Young Bhuvaneswar Kumar showed the world that if you have the will and heart you can still succeed at this level even if you are not the most gifted batsmen in the world.
For me, Bhuvi’s attitude gets the team going. It spreads like wildfire among the team members. When you see such a cricketer in the dressing room, the rest take a hard look at themselves. His batting in the first innings must have given so much confidence to the rest that it actually makes everyone feel ‘If he can do it, I can as well’.
Where does England go from here? They panicked after the Ashes and I just get a feeling that English crickets decisions depend on Ashes and that is so wrong. Yes, they were ordinary in Australia but some of the radical changes they have made will hurt them for a while now. When one sits down and has a look at the English batting, one wonders who can take the game away from the opposition. It’s a calming feeling for rival captains.
Team selection is a lot more than choosing good boys and yes men. It’s about flair, guts and creating winning situations for the team. In this England team, I see no one other than Ian Bell capable of doing that.
I also feel sorry for Alastair Cook. What a fine player he has been for England, an amazingly good human being and, at the moment, just being killed by the burden of captaincy. I don’t know what will happen to his future as captain but the English selectors will be horrified at the thought of losing Cook the batsman.
It might just be a blessing in disguise if captaincy is taken away from him but I am never a supporter of a captain being asked to leave. But then, it’s a cruel world. The selectors must also realise that a captain is as good as his team and they should focus on picking match-winners even if they may not have the bucket of runs in county cricket.
It was a good Test pitch at Lords and such games will bring crowds back to the grounds. Now the question is: What kind of tracks will India get for the remaining Tests? Green, result-oriented pitches is the need of the hour for England. If that’s what is rolled out for each of the Tests, trust me, this series is far from being over.