The biggest humiliation in the history of Indian cricket

Last Updated: Tue, Aug 23, 2011 11:48 hrs

In the winter of 1958, the England side led by Peter May sailed for Australia to defend the Ashes. No one doubted that they would. They were an all-conquering team that had dominated Test cricket for most of the decade, had won three Ashes contests running and had ridden roughshod over most opposition at home and away.

A look at the England team and one could immediately write off Australia's chances of regaining the urn. The captain was probably the best batsman in the world and in support he could count upon the services of his deputy Colin Cowdrey, Tom Graveney, Peter Richardson, Willie Watson and Arthur Milton.

'Barnacle' Trevor Bailey was the all rounder, the pace quartet comprised Fred Trueman, Brian Statham, Peter Loader and Frank Tyson while the spin attack revolved around Jim Laker and Tony Lock. The ebullient Godfrey Evans was the wicketkeeper.

They were up against an Australian side which were in the rebuilding process thanks to the recent retirements of Keith Miller, Ian Johnson and Gil Langley. Moreover Ian Craig who had led Australia to a 3-0 victory in South Africa the previous season withdrew due to indisposition. The captaincy was now a clear contest between Richie Benaud and Neil Harvey and when the former got the nod it was not well received.

In this uncertain atmosphere the series started in Brisbane in November and when it was all over some two months later, Australia had quite surprisingly won the series and regained the Ashes. Not only did they brush aside the seemingly formidable challenge from England winning the five-match series 4-0, the margins - eight wickets, eight wickets, ten wickets and nine wickets - brooked no argument.

I can only come up with this analogy when I think of what the Indian team had to endure in England in the just concluded lop-sided contest. As far as major upset results go, the Indian humiliation has to be placed alongside that suffered by England more than half a century ago.

The only other result that can possibly be up there would be South Africa winning all four Tests at home against Australia in 1969-70. But on that occasion the two were arguably the leading sides in the game. What was expected to be a keen contest turned out to be woefully one-sided with the home team winning by margins of 170 runs, innings and 129 runs, 307 runs and 323 runs.

But in the case of the India-England and Australia-England rubbers, it was a case of a team ranked lower routing the No 1 squad in the game by huge margins, the only difference being that one was a five-match contest and the other was over four Tests.

More columns

It will be interesting to see how the Board of Control for Cricket in India reacts to the disaster which given the side's exalted status when the series started has to be the biggest humiliation in the history of Indian cricket. Will the right steps be taken or will things be shoved under the carpet? Public memory in India is notoriously short and one home series victory could well see the status quo being maintained as to the team personnel and the approach.

The packed international schedule will continue to be in place, injury issues will be swept aside and it will be business as usual with filling the coffers the top priority. One cannot but agree with the view expressed by former Indian captain MAK Pataudi that "the BCCI is not going to show a great deal of vision and cricket in India will continue the way it is."

When England suffered a 5-0 clean sweep in the Ashes series Down Under in 2006-07, they reviewed the situation, looked at where and how things went wrong, took the necessary steps to eradicate the errors and look where they are now - at the top of the pile.

Successive defeats to England led the Australian authorities to come up with the Argus report. This has led to sweeping changes in Australian cricket personnel at the top while the rebuilding process in the team has already started under a new, younger captain.

I suppose it will be expecting too much for all this to happen in Indian cricket. One can only agree with the opinions expressed by some former international players that the Indian team's slide will be even swifter in future.

More from Sify: