A few days back, the 2000th Test match in the history of cricket ended. The teams who wielded the willow and the cherry were on the one hand England, the hosts, a resurgent Test team and ranked third and on the other hand, we had India, the No. 1 Test Team and the winners of this year's World Cup.
Both the teams had fantastic captains. England had Andrew Strauss who led them to an Ashes victory. Moreover, Strauss had an excellent record as captain in Tests. If England had the dependable Strauss as captain, India had the charismatic and dynamic M. S. Dhoni as their skipper. On a high after leading India to victory in the World Cup and a triumphant Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League, a lot was expected from the 30-year-old Dhoni who also has a reputation of being able to handle immense pressure with ease.
It was expected to be an exciting and highly entertaining contest between the two teams. There were also various impending landmarks. Sachin Tendulkar was on the threshold of a ton of tons. Furthermore, it so happened that the trio of Sachin, Dravid and Laxman had 99 test centuries in between them before the start which would also become 100 if any of them scored a ton.
Then, numerous comparisons were made between the two sides in aspects like batting, bowling, fielding. India had a line-up full of superstars who are capable of demolishing any line-up. Whereas, England had a batting order of consistent batsman who knew their job. While England had a superb pace battery, India looked threatening only with Zaheer Khan around. In the spin department, Graeme Swann was recently crowned the world's No. 1 bowler while India's Harbhajan Singh a.k.a. Bhajji recently attained the landmark of 400 Test wickets and was hungry for more.
All these statistics and landmarks were in the end futile. What was supposed to be an enthralling Test and be an advertisement for Test matches turned out to be what I think was a horribly one-sided affair. Except for some flashes of brilliance in a couple of sessions for India, England held all the aces led by a dominant Kevin Pietersen. India were a pale shadow of the champion side we saw them to be in the past few months. The visitors were humbled and by the end of the match England were on a high and rightly so.
In my view, the reason for the sudden poor performance of the Indians due to the absence of Zaheer Khan and Virendar Sehwag is the lack of a nice and big bench strength and the absence of genuine all-rounders. These two have been the bane of Indians for a very long time. On the other hand, England were a confident bunch and believed in themselves. Apart from the home support, they were in the right frame of mind whereas the Indians saw it more as a warm-up game like against Somerset.
All said and done, the stage for the second Test starting today has been set. A wounded India will be out to prove a point and justify their numero uno status. Nonetheless, a resurgent England would like to build on the advantage and seal the fate of the Indians. The next 5 days will show which team held their nerve this time. May the best team win!
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