Cricket fans received some positive news yesterday, that the England players decided to resume their tour of India. For those who need reminding, the tour was temporarily called off in the wake of the terrorist attack in Mumbai. What’s more, Flintoff, a key England player, also returned to India. There were some initial doubts regarding whether Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison would be returning because of the terrorist threat, but almost everyone is applauding the England team for making the right decision. This can only be good for world cricket.
An interesting series looms ahead. India most certainly starts as favourites, due to its in-form opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir (both average 62 and 64 respectively, this year) and in form strike bolwers Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. With Harbhajan Singh leading the spin attack, India also appears convincing from the spin front. Hence, England will have to play out of their skins to match India in this series. When England plays as a unit, it can pose problems for the opposition and it has players like Pieterson and Flintoff who are proven match winners. Yet, the England side misses that spark that results in competitive psyche and consistent positive results. England’s openers lack consistency, its pacers are too prone to injury and it does not have a quality spinner who can turn things around on spin-friendly pitches. If that is not enough, most England players are replaced very quickly as soon as some decline in performance is noticed. Some would say Pakistan and Indian cricket administrators should adopt this line of strategy as well with a few players, but the answer is to find the right balance.
The recently concluded ODI series between India
and England showcased just what is so brilliant with India and what is so lacking with England. India dominated England completely and seemed like it was thrashing a minnow team. Three out of the top 5 batsmen were Indians, and 4 out of the top 5 bolwers were Indians, too. India were revitalised with the return of Yuvraj Singh, who tore the England bowlers apart, smashing 325 runs at an average of 108. On his day Yuvraj seems as dominating and as majestic as any Tendulkar or Lara. He has been an enigma for Indian cricket, monstrously talented, yet has been unable to make a name for himself in Test cricket. Ganguly’s exit gives Yuvraj the chance of a permanent place in the Test side, and he must capitalise it because he certainly has the talent to become a consistent match winner for India.
India should win this series without many problems, but must be aware of the
ability of a few England players to surprise. Pieterson and Flintoff seem the obvious threats, but Owais Shah’s ODI performance and county cricket reputation means India should not take him lightly. Similarly, Harmison and Anderson, although suffering from inconsistent form of late, can be destructive on their day. Nevertheless, Dhoni has transformed India into a winning unit and India currently ranks no 3 in ODI and Test cricket, only marginally behind South Africa, the 2nd placed team.
To conclude, it was great news for cricket fans that the tour is being resumed and a full strength England side is playing. Cricket is ultimately the solution, regardless of all politics and terrorism. England have taken a positive step and Pakistani cricket fans will hope India makes the same sane and encouraging decision to tour Pakistan for the January series. Hopefully we see some calm, some peace and some excitement now from this series. The terrorists who wanted to destablise proceedings have suffered a huge setback because fans are looking forward to cricket, and if and when India tours Pakistan, the terrorists will receive a further blow. We can’t fight them with bombs and bullets, but we can thwart their intentions by thinking logically, reasonably and by encouraging peace and stability.