At the Heathrow airport, the moment they checked-in to fly to the Indian sub-continent, English side would have known this for sure. They would have known that they have two very tough oppositions to defy in order for them to maintain their reputation of a good all-round test side.
Two oppositions being – ‘the Indian side’ of course and ‘the sub-continent conditions’.
For past many years, England have been on top of their game when it comes to test match cricket. But to prove to the world that they are a good all-round side, the sub-continent challenge must be conquered. And make no mistake; this challenge is their biggest this year.
As I write this, England is falling apart. At lunch on day 3 of the 1st test match, they are 110/7 in response to the huge Indian score of 521/8d and clearly looking at a follow-on. One wonders what has suddenly gone wrong, what is it that a champion side like them as one TV commentator mentioned have ‘a noose tightened around their throat’? The answer, well, as most would agree is that they try too hard when up against good quality spinners on turning tracks… It is all in the mind.
If one watches closely the way English batsmen have got out, it can be noticed that they don’t have a clear approach towards playing spin. There is too much pre-meditation, there is over-complication in the manner the shots are being played and there is absolutely no attempt to simplify the method to go about things. Let me be very clear here, these players are top quality with no dearth of skills but at the moment their mindset is such that everything they do seems to come back and choke them. They are either too defensive to the extent of using just the pads or they (read Bell) want to go after the bowling from ball one. Indians batted on the same pitch with so much ease. Sehwag and Yuvraj looked great but Pujara was just outstanding, playing everything straight and late, just how you play on these tracks.
Amidst English performance (non-), due credit must be given to the Indian spinners who bowled really well. However bad the opposition is batting, you still have to put the ball in the right areas. In fact Dhoni had so much confidence in ability of his spinners that his premier fast bowler Umesh Yadav came into bowl only in the 48th over of English innings.
Well, all is not lost for England and they can still come back into this long four match test series, if not this test match. But for that to happen Alastair Cook and the coach Andy Flower have to do some thinking and get their strategies right, very quickly.