Thursday, December 30, 2010

England are paper tigers

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England have a good team - for the T20s. Having beaten a terrible Australian team in Australia, bandwagon-wallahs, MCC membership suck ups, Anglo-philes, "slurpy" desis, tourists, latte-liberals, spot-fixers and ex-captains have begun questioning India's claim to being world number one.

The latest offering is that England have an 'all weather bowling attack' and that they have a "world class spinner" and Kevin Pietersen. The "so-called" world class spinner has an average of nearly 40 in the current series against a pathetic Australian team that Harbhajan eats for lunch every time his average starts dipping. The "world-class" hyper-spinner's overall average is further inflated due to an average of around 12 vs a "spot-fixing" Pakistan. The only two tests that he played in India he was shown his due place among the pantheon of greats. Well that was a little too much. I actually like Swann. He is a good bowler, but with Vettori and Harbhajan around, he's a definite third in my list of good spinners. Lately Harbhajan has been terrible, but he's displayed a welcome return to form in Durban whereas Swann is averaging forty. Swann's reckoning will be at Sydney where he will have the opportunity to showcase his "greatness" in friendly conditions against a sub-test class batting line up.

Kevin Pietersen may have struck form again, but so has Sachin Tendulkar for several years. Plus Tendulkar in his old age is playing better than Pietersen and my guess is that when Sachin plays with a cane in one hand, he will still do better than Pietersen. At Perth, Pietersen and the rest of the team obviously didn't want to disturb India's number one ranking and were merely trying to make the series competitive. Last time India played at Perth, the results against a much better bowling attack were somewhat different. Add Sehwag, Gambhir and Laxman to the lineup and they clearly out-do Strauss, Cook, Trott and Bell. Dhoni over Prior anytime with twice on difficult pitches. On the England side, I'm afraid the Collingwood conundrum continues to not help. India too are carrying a suspect number six, so that perhaps evens out. Plus, India can swiftly replace Gambhir or Sehwag with Vijay and not miss a beat, whereas England will probably shrivel and die should Cook or Strauss catch a cold. Add Harbhajan's two centuries, Ishant and Zaheer's support for Laxman and I see no comparison on the England side.

Let's talk about the 'all weather bowling' that recently got belted at Perth by Mike Hussey. He was about the only player who played like VVS is playing these days. India too have an 'all-weather bowling attack' (whatever that means). With one bowler and half a spinner India is winning tests overseas with a regularity that makes Ex-Lax makers nervous.

When the pitches provide the bowling some help, they become unplayable, unlike England whose bowlers decided to let Hussey get back into form after running through the top order. Plus, they couldn't make use of the conditions the same way an out-of-form Mitchell Johnson did. What the Perth test proved is that Australia is one bowler away from exposing England. India on the other hand have overcome Steyn and Morkel on a Kingsmead wicket. It's clear to me who the better batting team is.

This post is somewhat mean spirited because I'm tired of people questioning India's recent home wins. There were no tailor made pitches. If anything they were batting paradises. India's bowling has developed well and legitimately wins games for India without appearing too flashy. A good match by an incoming Bresnan and England earns the "all-weather" tag. Let's give Indian bowling it's due. Harbhajan was a worry, but his performance in Kingsmead is a top-class one.

My due apologies to my partner, but clearly we disagree and so we've covered all bases.

Posts that got me mad...
  1. Ashes 4.4: How Good Are England?
  2. Ashes 4.2: The New India v Australia
  3. Ashes 2.5: This Changes Everything


Anonymous said...


I too share your exasperation with people unfairly & somewhat ignorantly questioning India's #1 ranking. Especially when SA and England have themselves not beaten India in India. In fact, this England team has still not beaten anybody significant away from home...the Ashes aren't over yet...and they only managed a (losing) 1-1 in SA besides losing 1-0 in India.

But having said all that...they're not as "papery" as you describe! :) They're a very good team...capable of challenging India...but still only contenders. We're the incumbents!

PS: The only thing I worry about is if Zaheer is unfit when we tour England...for we don't seem to have the bowling depth that England are currently blessed with.


Mahek said...

I'm glad you acknowledge that you wrote this post in anger :)

I think it's incumbent on England to prove they're better than India. Now they could go #1 without beating India at home next year, in which case people will point to the fact that England are just as good/bad a #1 side as India.

Coming to your assessment of the two sides, I don't agree with Harbhajan and Vettori being better than Swann. Infact, I'd rate Shakib above the two you mentioned. You've mentioned Swann's stats in Australia but have ignored his performance at Adelaide. Also, he's been in the field on the first day of two tests played on pitches meant for fast bowlers. Even if you factor in Australia's lack of batting quality, his performance is way better than what Harbhajan has produced Down Under.

You mentioned Swann's performance in India. I think he comfortably outbowled Harbhajan in that series. This when he was making his test debut against the best batsmen against spin while Harbhajan who was into his 11th year of international cricket was bowling to one of the weakest lineps against spin.

It took you just one Kingsmead test to say all is well with Harbhajan, but go back a year and you'll see that Swann had a 9-for in the Durban Test. Infact, he had 21 wickets in a Man of the Series performance. Oh he was also Man of the Match in two of the four tests.

With that out of the way, let's compare the batting lineups.

On paper Sehwag & Gambhir are way better than Strauss & Cook. Some would say their numbers have been beefed up because we've played almost all our recent cricket in Asia. While I agree with it, I think they're still better than the English opening pair. However, I don't think Murali Vijay is any better than Michael Carberry. Coming to number 3, Trott is way better than Dravid. Sachin beats KP hands down. Laxman+Pujara/Raina beat Collingwood+Bell simply because Laxman is in the form of his life. Dhoni over Prior as you said.

When it comes to bowling, I think Zaheer is better than Anderson. Swann trumps Harbhajan. Considering how inconsistent Ishant & Sreesanth are I'd say any combination of Tremlett, Finn, Broad and Shahzad is better than the Indian duo, although in Indian conditions Ojha replaces one of them and that kind of evens out the bowling.

All in all, I'd say what I said at the start of this comment. England have to prove they're better than India.

Golandaaz said...

Good one vidoo, doe little however to change my view. England in my view remain first amogst the equals.

I guess you are not reading what I am saying. I am not suggesting that England don't have to dethrone India...They have to. All I am saying is that they are better positioned to do that than India is to retain their #1 ranking

To retain the #1 ranking India now have to start winnings series in SA and Australia. Its been tough for us to do that. England have done that...well they drew in SA (which it self will be a big deal for India)

When did this swith occur. You bullish on India? and I taking your role?

Anonymous said...

It will be fun when England finally do take on India next year. For now, I keep reminding folks the following FACTS...not opinions:

Over the last 2 years, England have been SMASHED on challenging tracks like Perth (just 2 weeks back), Jo'burg (last series vs SA), Headingley (last Ashes) and Kingston (bowled out for 51!)...whereas the "home bullies" from India have beaten SA at Jo'burg & Durban, as well as Aus at Perth...not to mention that England have lost 1-0 to India both home and away the last times we played.

Anonymous said...

hmm...this post gave me mixed feelings, as i'm half indian and half english....anyways, if the argument is going to be about which of these two teams deserve to number 1 in the future, this is a win-win!

Vidooshak said...

Gol - England may play India at home next year, but it will not be the same India team post-World cup. Having said that if England thrash India, then India's time is up. If Tendulkar and Dravid don't hang up their boots, India will have 3 batsmen pushing forty and one or two rookies in the team. England on the other hand will have a much more settled side. The wheel of time shall we say? As of today, England have done nothing to prove that they are better than India. Beating a terrible Australian team doesn't prove much. So this is going to be an argument about "on paper". And I believe on paper India are a better side today despite every Australian and English ex-captain pundit thinking otherwise. Beating this Australian team is no different than beating today's West Indies team.

Vidooshak said...

Mahek - You are making some good points. As I said, I like Swann too. But that Harbhajan performance in Aus vs Swann performance in Aus comparison is a little concerning. When Harbhajan bowled to the Aus batsmen, Symonds was in the side, so was Hayden. The core of Ponting, Clarke and Hussey were in much better form than today. My point is that in watching these games, I'm not convinced that English bowlers are responsible for Australia's poor form. They are reaping the benefits of the poor form of Clarke and Ponting coming into this series.

Golandaaz said...

Vidoo, its simple when the ICC window shifts in Oct 2011, England will come very close to India on account of their drawn series in SA 2010 and Aus 2010. Whereas India will have a loss in SA 2010 (my prediction) and will have to beat Astralia in 2011. Which is really difficult.

Add to that the India-Eng series.

And you yourself point out that India are ageing.

So if Eng win the MAK Pataudi trophy then they get the points to be #1 It does not have to be on paper

Nishant said...

Somehow everyone forgets to mentions Dhoni's pathetic toss record. Losing the toss has meant India losing the initial advantage in most games. And inspite of this the recent record is pretty good.

Vidooshak said...

Gol - Agreed. Next year, my money would be on England on account of their upward trajectory and India's potentially going downwards. But today it's India that's a better team and performer.
Nishant makes a great point too which too goes for Harbhajan's defense (if it's a defense for Swann's average of 40 down under).
But England have to win at Sydney to seal the deal first. If they can't beat this Aus team at Sydney, then doubt should creep in. Aus can revive by end of 2011 and India may lose their chance due to a brand new Indian team.