In the presser after the Birmingham one-day international on Tuesday, which India won to clinch the series 3-0, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was asked if his team were tested enough. Having to respond to this question after an intensely testing Test series, Dhoni was understandably testy in his reply.
“How do you want us to be tested?” he shot back, before deigning to answer. “We were not tested because our fast bowlers bowled well. Where they didn’t bowl well, the spinners took the responsibility. Testing is good, but you don’t always want to be tested. You want to win games easily, too.”
To be fair to the question, in itself it was fair enough. But Dhoni is not one to readily agree that England just rolled over to have their tummies tickled, just like India had in the five-day games. Politeness will prevent him from discounting England’s performance, and pride will stop him from taking any credit away from his team. Privately, though, he may perhaps admit the obvious truth of the limited-overs leg: Sublime as no doubt India were, the hosts were exceedingly bad.
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Even while factoring in the argument that these are two different formats, and therefore the demands are different, such complete reversals can’t easily be explained. They are normally infrequent — such 180-degree turnarounds are actually rare — but when they (or something close enough) occur, often it’s England at the receiving end. For example, after hammering New Zealand in the two-match Test Series at home last year, they went on to lose the three-match ODI series 2-1 (with the defeats more comprehensive than the eventual scoreline). Or in 2009, after winning the Ashes 3-1, they went on to lose the subsequent ODI series to Australia 6-1.
It proves what has been proved time and again: that England are a significantly poor ODI team as compared to their Test resources. Still, it falls short of explaining this monumental hiding they have received at their home turf.
There has been feeling throughout the series that England were unreasonably cautious while batting, and that they didn’t quite unlock themselves. Once they were pushed on the backfoot early on in the series, they stayed put there.
The normally explosive Alex Hales has been curiously restrained and their pinch-hitter down the order, Jos Buttler, has taken 91 balls for his three-match aggregate of 55. Clearly, there has been no counterattacking intent, except when Moeen Ali took the bull by the horns in the last match and blasted a 50-ball 67 at Edgbaston that included three sixes — two of those against the previous game’s Man of the Match, R Ashwin.
Learning from india now?
It’s a stinging indictment on England’s think-tank that Ali, who sat out the second and third matches, didn’t look at his teammates, captain or coach for inspiration but took a leaf out of Suresh Raina’s book. And he did so himself, without any apparent encouragement for the same from Alastair Cook or Peter Moores.
“We can learn a lot,” Ali told the media on match eve at Headingley. “Me sitting on the sidelines for the first two games, watching the way the Indians bat, you can learn a lot from the way they approach it, with no fear and just back themselves. If there is a risk, they just take it. Sometimes it doesn’t come off but as a team if we can all do that.then we will be fine.
“Watching someone like Suresh Raina in the first game, they were in trouble and he came out and played the way he played. Like I say he took a few risks and they came off. He backed himself. I tried to copy it a little a bit and played the way I play,” Ali added.
All over the place
Not just the batting, there has been a remarkable lack of vitality in England’s bowling as well — a degenerative condition that has worsened alarmingly after the first 10 overs in Cardiff. James Anderson, who ought to have been making up for batting failures, is just not the same bowler that he is in Test matches. As the de facto leader of the attack, he has been matched in his listlessness only by the leader of the team.
It has rubbed off on the other bowlers as well, notably Chris Woakes who started brilliantly in his first spell at the SWALEC Stadium. The wide-off-the-mark Chris Jordan, the utterly pedestrian Ben Stokes, the ineffective Steve Finn — the list goes on. There has been no spark in their fielding either. Few direct throws and even fewer diving stops.
It could be that England would have at times felt that they were not playing at home. Such has been the support for India and hostility for England. But here, too, they are to blame to an extent. With their all-too-apparent indifference, they are doing their best to alienate even the staunchest fan of the England ODI team. Who will support a team that doesn’t even pretend to be competing? Fewer still will pay to watch them.