If it was luck that eluded India in the ODI series against England in September this year, then it was India’s sheer hunger for success, their hunger to salvage lost pride, splendid display of positive attitude and gamesmanship that eluded the visiting English team a month later in the return series to India termed as the payback on the Indian shores. A thumping 5-0 brown wash made sure that the Indians sabotaged English dominance and brought back smiles which were lost post horror English tour.
The following are some of top observations from the recently concluded ODI series:
Total Comprehensiveness: The following term can be defined as: India won by 126 runs, India won by 8 wickets (with 80 balls remaining), India won by 5 wickets (with 4 balls remaining), India won by 6 wickets (with 59 balls remaining), India won by 95 runs. The Indians were unlucky with the uncertain English weather, which did not allow a single complete 50 over match when they toured England but the comprehensiveness with which they won this ODI series speaks volumes about the team which was recently lambasted for its poor performance in the English tour.
English Spin-department failure: The English vested high hopes in no.1 spinner in the world, Graeme Swann, but he responded with an abject bowling performance, picking up just 2 wickets at an average of 95.50 and conceding 191 runs at an economy rate of 5.30 from four matches. Left-arm spinner, Samit Patel, also performed egregiously, picking up just four wickets from five matches at an average of 45.50, giving away runs at an appalling economy rate of 6.03. The debutant leg-spinner, Scott Borthwick too had to bear the brunt, as he was plundered for 59 runs from eight overs in the lone ODI he played at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.
Poor shot selection: Where was the famous English sweep? It was totally missing; a tool which they effectively unleashed back in the 90’s and 2000’s to tackle the Indian spinners! A very important tool that legend cricketers like Matthew Hayden used to employ to rattle and unsettle the Indian spinners. Instead the English went for wrong choice of shots, playing down the wrong line and in some instances, missing the ball altogether which is evident from the fact that 23 out of the 44 English dismissals came in form of LBW’S and rattling of timber!
Strong Indian middle and lower order performance: India’s poor opening partnerships were compensated by consummate and diligent middle and lower order performances. Gambhir’s return to form was key and he was involved in a double century, a century and a half-century partnerships. Virat Kohli was the leading run scorer of the tournament; he played with great maturity throughout scoring a gargantuan tally of 270 runs from five matches at an average of 90.00 with one century and one half-century and one man of the match award. Suresh Raina was at his attacking best helping India accelerate when required the most, he scored 179 runs at a strike rate of 107.83. Captain marvel wasn’t left too far behind, a man of the series performance leading from the front scoring 212 industrious runs at a staggering strike rate of 112.76, hitting a tournament maximum of 6 sixes and remaining not out on four out of four occasions made sure that India thumped England 5-0 and he himself ended up average-less in the series!
Poor English tactics & Team selection: Rather concentrating on their own performances, the English resorted to verbal intimidation. The strategy of unsettling their opponents with “a little bit of a word or a look or a stare” didn’t impress the Indian skipper and his statement “A bit of chit-chat is fine because it makes things interesting. You don’t always want a friendly series. But I think they should change their strategy for the next two games,” after the five-wicket victory in the third ODI at Mohali was a hint that only one team was playing in the spirit of the game!
How can you leave out an in-form player who has an impressive average of 41.52 against India? Yes I am talking about Ian Bell!
English Stars: Steve Finn was the biggest plus point to emerge out of the series. The 6 feet 7 inches lanky tall right arm fast bowler bowled some successful fiery spells on tracks that proved to be listless for fast bowlers. Consistently bowling at 140 km/hr, he was the highest wicket taker of the series for England and highest wicket taker overall in fast bowler’s category in the series. Another star for England was Jonathan Trott who scored 202 runs at an average of 50.50; he was the highest run getter for England in the series.
Need for Speed: The biggest positive for India was the emergence of stars such as Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav who could bowl consistently at 140km/hr. Raw pace coupled with aggression helped them scalp 8 wickets between them. Varun Aaron’s all four wickets produced sweet sound of timber as he started off in style with three wickets on debut (3/24).
Butter Fingers: The biggest reason behind England’s great downfall was its pitiable fielding. 8 drops, lots of misfields and run out chances missed summed up the disappointing tour for the English contingent. In contrast, Indians were disciplined and livewire in the field saving crucial runs and affecting crucial run outs!
All in all it was a comprehensive victory well deserved for the hardworking Indian side, and definitely a “Payback with Interest!”
This post is by our Guest Sports Blogger Jigar Mehta.