Did Indian cricket deserve to be No. 1?
When the Indians stepped onto English soil, they were relishing their newly-won status as the No. 1 Test side in the world. For the first time since the rankings were introduced, India stood on top, something many observers felt was more significant than winning the World Cup. Then the cricket started.
By the end of the series, the scoreline stood at 4-0… but in favour of England. Not even the most ardent English fan would have predicted this outcome, but that’s what it was. More than just a whitewash, India did not run England close in any encounter.
Many observers who felt all along that India was not deserving of the No. 1 spot now had ammunition to back their claim. How could, after all, a No. 1 side be whitewashed in this manner?
So, why did India lose? Why such an abject surrender? It was combination of several factors as it only could have been. Let us look what those factors were.
Firstly, too much cricket has a deleterious effect on fitness. The Indians have the most packed schedule of all cricketing nations, and now have the hectic IPL to contend with. No wonder they suffered breakdown after breakdown once in England. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. But, importantly, only Indian cricket was to blame.
Secondly, they lost the mental battle. The Indians competed in the first Test, and in the second until their first innings. At 260 odd for 4, looking like running away with the Test and squaring the series 1-1, they were blindsided by a Stuart Broad rearguard that will be cherished by English fans in the times to come.
The comeback that they had always made in recent times was not to be. Instead, for the first time in a long time, the Indian team found itself mentally shocked, and stopped competing for the rest of the tour. Again, no one but the team itself is to be blamed.
Thirdly, the English team at that point was better. The logic is plain and simple. India lost to the better team. England had been on a steady rise, and pretty much peaked against the Indians with home advantage to boot.
But none of this affects the initial question of whether India ever deserved to be No. 1. The England tour was the handing over of that mantle, but let us remember it was but one tour. India had to lose at some point, but we should carry out an analysis of what happened beforehand.
Let us look at India’s performances overseas – the aspect of Indian cricket that for years has attracted the most criticism.
What were the results the last two times India toured Australia, England, and South Africa before the recent series in England?
On Australian soil, in the last series, India came from behind to secure victory at Perth, considered Australia’s Test fortress, and leave the scoreline at 2-1. The Australian victory in the Sydney Test, it is alleged, featured as many as eight clearly incorrect umpiring decisions, seven of which went against India. If true, and one would not like to be sidetracked into this argument, India would have won, not drawn, that Test and the series.
The series prior to last, India and Australia were locked 1-1 and, in the final Test, India were pushing for a series victory on the back of a 700-plus score. Steve Waugh, in his farewell Test, scored 80-odd and saved the Test and the series for Australia.
On South African soil, India’s last series tied at 1-1 in a hard-fought struggle, in which India’s victory significantly came at Durban, the quickest pitch in South Africa.
The series prior to last was not a runaway victory for South Africa, and India, while losing, kept it to 2-1.
In the last series on English soil, India won 1-0. The series prior to last was tied 1-1.
Now, a simple question follows: Does Australia, South Africa or England boast of a similar record on Indian soil in recent times? In the answer to this question lies the answer to the initial question.
It’s true that India has not won a Test series in these strong cricketing nations in recent times, but they have certainly run them neck and neck. These cricketing nations, with the possible exception of South Africa, have not done the same on Indian soil. South Africa did get to enjoy the No. 2 spot, but missed out on being No. 1, as they have not been as ruthless at home and as consistent elsewhere.
The bottom line is that India, all said and done, did deserve to be the No. 1 Test team in the world at the time of their ranking. And similarly, it is England that deserves that spot today!
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