England coming back to the party in such resounding fashion spells good news for anyone who wants a bit of balance © Getty Images
England coming back to the party in such resounding fashion spells good news for anyone who wants a bit of balance © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

India’s lacklustre effort in the ongoing Pataudi Trophy has attracted dismay, disappointment and worry. Many commentators and journalists have been horrified how a high-profile series has been reduced to a no-contest. There have been concerns over what would be the future of cricket if India slides in Test cricket and the BCCI loses interest in promoting it.

 

Amidst all this, though, we do need to give England’s performance through the series the appreciation it richly deserves. In the first half of the series, the focus was more on India’s poor performances and their struggle to come to terms with English conditions. But as the series nears its end, England have appeared dominant in their own right and capable of crushing a better effort from India, had it transpired.

 

What is also forgotten is that this, in a way, is exactly what some sections of cricket observers have wished for: a strong counterweight to India. Not because it is seemingly fashionable to bash the Indian cricket establishment now, but because we are better off with power being more evenly distributed in international cricket. A vastly-improved English side should hopefully heighten interest in cricket in its birthplace. Andrew Flintoff and Co became ‘overnight’ national heroes when they usurped the Ashes from Australia in 2005. Andrew Strauss’s warriors are well on their way to eclipsing that English side – in terms of performance and in terms of attracting eyeballs.

 

By dint of their sheer ineptitude in this series, India have unwittingly opened the field again. And as Australia, defying expectations, wrap up the ODI series in Sri Lanka with a match to spare, there are once more four strong teams in international cricket vying for the top spot. At the moment, England appear poised to pull ahead of the pack but their upcoming subcontinental sojourn and the subsequent Australian season may just make things more interesting.

 

England’s current priorities and their style of cricket also make for an interesting contrast with India. England have been solidity and efficiency personified with bat and ball and worked hard in the classical way to get results. India relied on batting flair and talent to make up for a relatively weak bowling attack. England were pushed aside by Sri Lanka in the World Cup 2011 and had the dubious distinction of losing to both Bangladesh and Ireland in the round robin stage. India, of course, beat Sri Lanka comfortably to win the Cup. Whether they would emulate their limited-overs successes in England remains to be seen, but ODIs are the stronger suit for India and Tests for England.

 

The two financial powerhouses of cricket seem to have vastly different agendas and England coming back to the party in such resounding fashion spells good news for anyone who wants a bit of balance. And as long as the Indian cubs don’t lose the plot in the shorter versions of the game, cricket’s march towards new horizons won’t be stymied either. Cricket cannot afford to be too traditionalist nor destroy too much of the old in its urge to ring in the new.

 

England may have pushed aside India with a bit too much of ease for comfort, but this promises a tough match-up of England and South Africa when the latter visit England. Test cricket’s most underrated rivalry may well become the hottest flavour of 2012 and an improved Australia should push India in the shorter formats.

 

Spoken too soon? Perhaps, but I should hope not. The contrasting results in England and Sri Lanka throw up tantalising possibilities that should potentially make for a lot of exciting cricket in the coming year or so. Let’s hope England don’t disappoint yet again and India pull themselves together and get back to winning ways.

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)