Posted by: tootingtrumpet | December 18, 2012

India vs England – England Series Report Card

Another posh but ruthless England captain

Another posh but ruthless England captain

Alastair Cook (562 runs at 80) – When he walked back to the dressing rooms having lost the toss at Mumbai, he must have wondered. Having seen his side hammered in Ahmedabad, with a re-integrating batsman who couldn’t integrate his movements sufficiently to avoid each limb heading off in a different direction and with his hopes pinned on another comeback for a spinner who took his wickets at over 50 in India and Sri Lanka, a series win must have looked about as distant as Chelmsford. Three weeks on, Alastair Cook joins Douglas Jardine, Tony Greig and David Gower as a victorious England captain in India.

Of those three, he most resembles Jardine – the public schoolboy with the ruthless edge of a Neapolitan streetfighter. He drew his three greatest weapons in Mumbai: gun batsman KP; Monty Panesar on a pitch on which he could wheel away to his heart’s content; and his own insatiable desire for runs. A lost toss again in Kolkata, but the wind off the Bay of Bengal was in his sails and another win set up the grinding draw of Nagpur and his place in history (not for the first time, nor the last). He blocked the good balls, hit the bad balls and even, amongst the 1285 that he faced, hit three of them for six. After one series in charge permanently, the cry rings out – “The King is dead. Long live the King.” A magnificent performance.

Nick Compton (208 runs at 35) – Opening batsmen count their worth not just by the runs they score, but how they set the tone for the innings to come, how they construct a platform on which the glamour boys can perform. In the two Tests England won, Compton played his part in opening stands of 66, 58, 165 and 4 (and another stand of 123 in the morale-boosting second innings of the First Test). Though he’ll look to raise his own contributions, he has settled into Test cricket and can look forward to The Ashes double-header and whoever the Aussies can find fit enough to open the bowling.

Jonathan Trott (294 runs at 42) – Out of sorts since the March century in Galle, he found a way to contribute, especially in the Fourth Test draw in which he batted nearly ten hours – exactly what his captain wanted. The stellar introduction to international cricket has grown into a more conventional career as an accumulator at Three. Still averages 50 or so, and that puts him in the front rank of batsmen – and wouldn’t Australia be pleased if they had a Trott at first drop?

KP (338 runs at 48, 1 wicket at 25) – After his spell in limbo, it was all legs akimbo, as KP’s anxiety to get down the wicket to the left-arm spin of Pragyan Ojha led him into the most extraordinary contortions in Ahmedabad. From those farcical scenes, KP (as perhaps only he could) re-invented himself in Mumbai to score an astonishing 186 and deflate India. With the self-belief / arrogance coursing through his veins like nip from a hipflask on a Christmas Day walk, he backed that daddy hundred up with half-centuries in each of the next two Tests and left us wondering how England ever thought they could do without him.

Ian Bell (172 runs at 43) – After playing an absurd shot to be out first ball in Ahmedabad, he returned from paternity leave to steer England to their low target in Kolkata and to the series-sealing draw in Nagpur with a century on the coattails of another (again). Has silenced his doubters – for the next match at least – but the queue behind him is growing.

Samit Patel (69 runs at 17, 1 wicket at 135) – Not good enough to bat at Six; not good enough to bowl in a four man attack. Samit will play for England again, but probably not in Test matches.

Jonny Bairstow (9 runs at 9) – Looked a little lost with the bat, but raised the standard of a pretty ordinary fielding unit (that was still miles ahead of its opposition). Will come again, but has a new rival for a batting slot from close to home.

Joe Root (93 runs at 93) – Nurtured through various levels of England squads, then suddenly catapulted into the new kid’s spot at Six, he performed with Cookesque sang froid to take England from a series threatening 119-4 at Nagpur to a much more secure 302-8 in an innings that occupied nearly 80 overs. That’s exactly the temperament that England have looked for since plumbing the depths in 1999. He may not play in every England Test for the next ten years, but I suspect he’ll play in most of them.

Matt Prior (258 runs at 52, 6 catches and 1 stumping) – Kept his captain company in a lost cause that nevertheless got England a foothold in the series. From there, chipped in with the bat, seldom failing – he seldom does. Keeping was not as immaculate as we have come to expect, but India is a tough place to keep and then bat – just ask his opposite number.

Tim Bresnan (39 runs at 13, 0 wickets at 142) – The magical cheese sandwich so memorably invented by Tanya Aldred in Wisden 2012, appeared to desert him, as Bres trundled in, planted the ball on a length and… nothing happened. A tough tour at the end of a tough year for the Yorkie, but nobody pretends that Test cricket is easy.

Stuart Broad (34 runs at 11, 0 wickets at 157) – Injured before he could be dropped, perhaps the relentlessness of playing all three formats of the game is getting to Broad. Down on pace with the ball and skittish with the bat, he looks in need of a rest: but New Zealand is a seamer’s paradise and if Steve Finn and Graham Onions get amongst the wickets, he’ll have a fight on his hands to regain his Ashes place.

Graeme Swann (98 runs at 33, 20 wickets at 25) – Dodgy shoulder? Bit jaded? Not enough mystery for superstar-batsmen on home turf? Not Swanny. If there was one moment that separated the two sides, it was Swann’s first ball after lunch on Day 4 at Kolkata – a perfectly pitched off-break snaking through Sehwag’s lazy forward prod and bowling him. Five more wickets went in the next 18 overs and England were going to win. Swann had made something happen – a Warnesque ability that has set him above most spinners in the world these last three years. He even made some runs – which he can still do, if the ball isn’t up around his chin.

Steven Finn (4 at 4, 4 wickets at 30) – Pace propelled from a delivery point some nine feet from the ground troubles any batsman on any surface. Just the one Test for the England quick, but he’s quickly becoming a must pick if he’s fit.

Jimmy Anderson (17 runs at 4, 12 wickets at 30) – Won’t treasure the figures, but will treasure the contribution, as he comprehensively outbowled India’s mixed bag of fading seamers on pitches where 6 wickets at 60 wouldn’t have been a bad effort. A craftsman with new ball and old, he is now at the same peak that Zaheer Khan reached a couple of years ago. And he’s just as important to his team.

Monty Panesar (5 runs at 3, 17 wickets at 27) – Found a line, length and, crucially, pace that was perfect for Mumbai and then did what he does best and what he loves – bowled and bowled and bowled. Delivered all but 11 overs from “his end” to take 11 wickets and put the doubters (like me) in their place. Gradually lost his wicket-taking potential as India’s batsmen declined to attack him, but his introduction (not quite as obvious as hindsight suggests) swung the series and he deserves all the praise he got – from Englishmen and Indians alike.

And finally… pitches eh? Who’d try and doctor one – or read one?

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Responses

  1. Typo alert: KP averaged 48 not 38. And I was pleased to see that you agree that Root was bloody marvelous.

    • Thanks Craig – now amended. Root will bat on trickier wickets, but not often in more pressurised situations.

  2. As usual, very well put. I’m not so sure about one thing, though — the resemblance of Cook to Jardine. Cook has done very well so far, but Jardine, a magnificent and very intelligent captain, was surely much more of a strategist and tactician than Cook is at the moment (although I shouldn’t rule out a significant role for Cook in the selection of Root for the Nagpur Test — which would, at least, be a very significant sign of growing tactical ability). Cook does seem to share Jardine’s determination, application, and an iron will to win, something not always evident in England captains, and, as batsmen, they also seem to have some things in common — patience, calm, relative orthodoxy, not to mention excellent ability off the legs (something that should be considered more often in the case of Jardine when the tactics used by England in the successful Ashes tour of 32/33 are discussed, at least imho). But Jardine, although certainly a very fine batsman, very rarely really led by example in Test match cricket, as Cook has done in India — the only instance might be Jardine’s demonstration of how to handle aggressive fast bowling when be batted against the West Indies in 1933. He might, of course, have become able to do so more often had he played first-class cricket more regularly, and had he not, for understandable reasons, left the Test arena relatively early, but it is surely undeniable that his Test record as a batsman is relatively modest — in the most important series of his life, his batting was of such concern that he suggested that he be dropped, while his scores in India are also not overpowering. And then comes the contrast that is particularly obvious (at least to me): while most of the men Jardine led were fiercely loyal to him, there were, of course, dissenters, and Jardine’s principles led him to conflicts (usually, I’d say, very understandable ones, but certainly conflicts that he didn’t try to resolve diplomatically) with the authorities in England, Australia, and India. Some would even see Jardine as an unnecessarily divisive captain, to put mildly the case of those who disparage him. So far, at least, and admittedly in a far less challenging environment and era, Cook has been the opposite — as far as it is possible to tell from the outside, he seems to have dealt with the potentially corrosive issues with KP and between KP and the rest of the team extremely well, and he has handled touring India equally well and very quietly. Cook has had the good fortune to work so far in an environment that is conducive to collective leadership (quite the opposite of Jardine’s situation), of course, but in an era which also _demands_ such leadership — Cook could never claim the power as captain that Jardine expected and required. Jardine asserted himself to great effect, but at considerable cost, while Cook seems to have fitted in effectively, while remaining his own man. And, finally, surely Winchester in the early C20th was a very different school from Bedford at the end of that century… To conclude, I’d tend to argue that it is the differences between the two that are the more enlightening, even if what those differences reveal says as much about changes in the character of the game and its institutions as about the two men.

    • Thank you for so considered and perceptive a comment with which I am entirely in agreement.

      The differences are as important as the similarities, but I suggest that Cook has more similarities to Jardine than any England skipper I can recall. Yes Strauss was “posh and tough” (I know that’s reductionist, but let’s go with it), but I’m not sure he quite had the steel that Cook shows (already) – the Root decision is a sign of that.

      Seems like you’re an admirer of Jardine, but prepared to recognise his faults and his “of his time” character. You might enjoy https://nestaquin.wordpress.com/2009/08/18/the-ashes-a-controversy-and-a-competition/, my review of a biography. I suspect there’s a better biography to be written (though Douglas’ is good) and a dual biography of Jardine and Cook might be something worth me pitching if Cook delivers The Ashes in Aus 81 years on

  3. Yes, I think we’re largely in agreement, but I feel that, in the end, the four captains who’ve won in India are all very different from one another — each strikingly unusual as cricketers, men, and even, perhaps, captains. At the same time, I’d argue, all four, while unique even in their own times, provide striking insights into those times.

    I agree with you, too, on Douglas’ biography. I greatly enjoyed it (and my remarks on Jardine’s batting style are based on Douglas’ comments, although he, as far as I recall, doesn’t draw my conclusion about Jardine’s attitude to so-called “fast leg theory” — that Jardine must have been especially inclined to see it as a perfectly normal approach _because he was particularly well equipped to play it himself_). At the same time, I’m not really sure that Douglas gets at the man himself: he has little of interest to say about Jardine’s life after cricket; he doesn’t really sort out Jardine’s social and even financial situation (Jardine needed to work, seems to have had some financial worries, but did own land abroad — so where, exactly, on the scale of the times, does he fit in and how do we understand his situation?); and I feel that Douglas might also make too much of the Winchester background — I suspect that much of what he describes with a mixture of wonder and horror was actually typical of English public schools at the time, while in my (grammar-school-boy’s) eyes, Winchester has always stood out from the rest, at least in the second half of the C20th, as a very _academic_ public school — and that’s an area where Jardine certainly did not shine, so I’d be curious to explore a potentially isolating factor in that aspect of Jardine’s wykehamist background.

    And, yes, I’m a great admirer of Jardine. Betrayed, above all, by the English establishment, to which, with some qualifications, he clearly belonged. A very English tale.

    Cook and Jardine — now there’s a pitch. Good luck with it — would make a great read, not least for the inevitable exploration of changes in society and social attitudes…

  4. Trott, first drop. Pity he claimed it as a catch.


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