England celebrate their win over India on the final day of the third Test after spinner Moeen Ali bowled last man Pankaj Singh © Getty Images
By Vincent Sunder
In sporting encounters, there is only one winner. There also exists the view that what matters more is the participation than winning or losing in a competitive arena. Fans are also not averse to putting together their hands to applaud their team even if the team hasn’t been successful. What makes sports endearing is the action on the field and the joy it brings to those watching it.
When a young Indian team came up with a stirring win at Lords’ just a week ago, Indian cricket fans were overjoyed, and with good reason. Conditions were quite not in their favour and the manner of the win was also one where aggression and game plan worked well. Had India lost, it would perhaps have been accepted as a game where the odds were stacked against them and they lacked experience. Euphoria prevailed not just over the win, but the thought that this team was now growing in maturity and confidence. Was this the beginning of a new era? A new found confidence that would erase the bitter memories of many a past overseas tour outside the subcontinent? Yes, only time would tell.
India came into Ageas Bowl Test with more aspects in their favour than the home side. Alastair Cook, the England skipper was under the hammer. The experienced batsmen in the line-up were under question. Key strike bowler Stuart Broad suspected of playing with a knee injury. Matt Prior had stepped down after the Lords defeat. The English side was a in a free-fall with no win in the last 10 Test, the previous Test victory having come in August 2013. India had to deal the knock-out blow to bury England. The only negative, if any, had been the docking of Ravindra Jadeja with a match fine stemming from the Anderson-Ravindra Jadeja incident.
How did India and England approach this game? England won the toss and decided to bat first, which, before the game started, was seen as a bold move both by a side that was on a winless streak and by a captain battling for form. True, India were without their spearhead Ishant Sharma. Great sides are those that overcome adversities to emerge with honours. Not those who requires the best of everything to come up winners. The defensive line that Jadeja bowled on the first day was a clear indicator of the mindset of the Indian side. True, the catch that Jadeja dropped to give Alastair Cook a real ‘life’ and probably the first innings stroke that led to the dismissal of Rohit Sharma may arguably be seen as two critical incidents that led to the humiliating loss for India. But did a side that start a Test with four bowlers of whom one was assigned to a negative role really deserve to win?
If India had its legs at the throat of England after the Lord’s Test, not just did it weaken it’s hold but stooped low enough to allow England to grab it where it hurt the most. Players may perform remarkably or have failures. No one deliberately fails, one trusts, in these days and times. When a side that had everything going in its favour begins a game with no intent to win, it deserved the humiliation England handed them. You may be weak, but you will still get some respect if you die trying. India have not just lost a Test but also all respect, perhaps. The weeks ahead will tell if the Ageas Bowl Test was an aberration or perhaps reinforce that feeling that India are presently being led by a think-tank with an utterly negative mindset that refuses to throw the first punch and lurks like a weakling to catch a weak prey.
Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014
(Vincent Sunder aspired to play Test cricket, but had to struggle to play gully cricket! He managed a league side to title triumph in the KSCA tournaments. He was debarred from umpiring in the gully games after he once appealed vociferously for a caught-behind decision when officiating as an umpire! After two decades in the corporate sector, he became an entrepreneur with the objective of being able to see cricket matches on working days as well. Vincent gets his high from cricket books and cricket videos and discussing cricket)