Overconfident England meet their Waterloo in India

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 21, 2011 05:28 hrs

When South Africa won the No. 1 Test crown, they lost it to India within a matter of months. This happened despite the fact that they had been playing brilliant cricket for many years. In fact, only after India got thrashed by England recently do the Proteas find themselves at a distant second in the ICC Test rankings.

South Africa learnt the bitter lesson that it's very easy to reach the top, but very difficult to stay there, something which only Australia mastered till their decline.

The same thing happened to England in 2005. They were the No. 2 team. When they beat Australia 2-1 in the Ashes, they were unofficially acknowledged as the world Test champions even though they didn't take the number 1 rankings.

But instead of consolidating, they failed to win a single series for about one-and-a-half years!

Since they've been up and down that road before, it was extremely surprising to read the over-the-top and overconfident statements of current and former players from England.

One said the permanent decline of the Indian team had begun and it would get worse. One said that England would be Test champions for 4-5 years!

Another said that England would thrash India 5-0 on Indian soil too. And for most, the ICC ODI No. 1 rankings were there just for the asking.

How much has changed in a week! England is 0-3 down. They got thrashed in the first two ODIs and couldn't even defend 298 in the third. They are ranked No. 5 in ODIs and look in total disarray.

In fact, England's toughest Test begins now. Traditionally England hates the Indian sub-continent. They are poor travellers here and are uncomfortable with the pitches and climate. When they lost 0-3 to India in Tests in the 1990s, things like smog and Delhi belly were touted as some of the reasons for defeat in the English press.

So, what is England's path after becoming No.1? First stop India; then Tests and ODIs with Pakistan in Dubai and Abu Dhabi; that's followed by Tests in Sri Lanka. Quite a handful for the English one must say!

And they have faltered at the very first hurdle in India. Dubai and Sri Lanka will be much tougher.

That way one has to give full credit to India for winning two season-ending ICC Test crowns after which they become No. 1. They can even go in for a third if England falters against Pakistan and Lanka and India manages to beat Australia in Australia.

That's a tough task, but not impossible.

When will Sachin retire from ODIs?

A lot of people were surprised when the great Sachin Tendulkar didn't retire from ODIs when India won the World Cup. That's the pinnacle of any cricketer's career and it might have been the best time to hang up one's boots in the shorter format of the game.

But Sachin is tantalizingly close to a few landmarks in one-dayers. He's just two short of 50 centuries and five short of 100 fifties. One is sure that he wants to round off his career before he leaves. Another factor is that he has 18,000 plus runs. If he closes in on 20,000 while making the above records, then he may sign off after that.

Remember, Sunil Gavaskar signed off from Test cricket after scoring 10,000 runs!

New rule blues

India is traditionally poor at adapting to new rules, but this time the team has done really well. Our pacers handled the two new balls with ease and looked much more potent than they usually do on home soil, that too without veteran Zaheer Khan to guide them.

While MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli talked of the rules being a tad confusing, they handled the new powerplays well enough to optimize the team's score.

Even the running between the wickets was done in such a way as to take into account the new rule that the batsman may be given out if he is obstructing the ball.

And one thing the BCCI must be really happy about is that the DRS is no longer compulsory.

That's quite a contradiction, though.

India is the richest board in the world and can afford it at all venues, but is opting out.

Other poorer boards will struggle for a universal implementation, but have showed their willingness anyway!

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/

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