Ajmal's success against England will gladden Team India

Saeed Ajmal registered his second 10-wicket haul in Test cricket to help Pakistan crush England by 10 wickets at Dubai © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

The mighty English juggernaut encountered a speed breaker in the Dubai desert to suffer a humiliating defeat to Pakistan. A team that has dominated Test cricket in every sense in recent times was brought down to their knees as their typical grit and never-say-die attitude eluded them on the first leg of their subcontinental sojourn. Their endeavours of pilling the runs were thrashed by crafty off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who weaved a magic to get the Englishmen in his death-trap.

 

It has been three years since England last fell behind in a series. In early 2009, the disaster at Jamaica gave West Indies a 1-0 lead and that game fostered a change in the England mindset. The Andy Flower- Andrew Strauss partnership had started off on a dismal note, but thereafter it’s been a different story. They have been the first to take the initiative in every series and set the ball rolling on the results front. This time around they have stepped into uncomfortable territory after a preferred long absence.

 

England’s journey to the top had its own roadblocks. One can say that this defeat is only a bump on their path to domination. However, Ajmal’s spell has posed some serious questions to the English think-tank and they need to find solutions before spin bowling becomes a psychological nemesis for their batsmen.

 

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, said that if England do not learn to pick Saeed Ajmal, they are in danger of losing the series. It is a very pertinent observation as Ajmal’s introduction into the attack sparked off a line of dismissals during the first innings.

 

The England middle-order comprising Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan and Ian Bell were packed off cheaply. It is imperative that the middle tackles the tweakers well and set the tone for the match. The dismissals indicated that they erred in judging his variations, something they have to learn to adapt to before it is too late. The quicker they learn to make adjustments, the better for England.

 

One may have thought that the collapse during the first innings may have been aberrations as England are coming off a long lay-off. On the other hand, Pakistan’s batsmen proved that they could get runs if they applied themselves. Which is why another collapse in the second innings was baffling. This time it wasn’t Ajmal alone who did the damage. Umar Gul and Adbur Rehman also did their bit in hastening England’s doom.

 

A defeat in three days certainly wouldn’t boost the morale of the players. However, they need to pick themselves up from the dumps and rise to the challenge. They are the No 1 side in the world and have fine players in their ranks. The last time England were down in a series, they displayed their mettle and fought back hard. Unfortunately for them, a series win wasn’t in store. But three years down the line, they are much stronger unit who can come back from even hopeless situations.

 

Dubai Test series will be of much interest to India & Sri Lanka

 

In 2012, England are scheduled to play in Sri Lanka and India. Thus, spin bowling would be on the agenda as the Lankans and the Indians would watch the developments in the United Arab Emirates with keen interest. Every English wicket that falls to a tweaker would be a note in the files of the respective coaches of the two sides waiting to play them. By tackling the mystery of Ajmal, England would not only resurrect their campaign but would also send out a very strong message to Sri Lanka and India.

 

Meanwhile, the Pakistan team needs to be lauded for their splendid performance. England is the stronger of the two sides and that detail didn’t deter Misbah-ul Haq and his men. They have just carried on from where they left off in 2011, a year that saw them rise from the ruins of the spot-fixing controversy.

 

It is obvious that the ghosts of the spot-fixing controversy would have haunted Pakistan for quite some time. The memories would have come alive again as they walked to face England for the first time since the saga. Thus, their victory not only exudes promise for the future but may have also helped exorcise a few demons, if there were any.

 

The captain, Misbah should be credited for leadership. Apart from leading the team on the field, he also had to keep them focused on the task at hand and ignore the scars of the spot-fixing saga. Even as his former team-mates were jailed, his team moved from strength to strength to help regain the lost pride. There may have been times when his captaincy may have come under a bit of slack for defensive tactics. But as long as they are working and delivering the right results for his team, it shouldn’t be a major worry.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)