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By Sunil Gavaskar
The England team’s attitude and approach towards the Indians in the just concluded one day series pretty much mirrors that of the England team that toured India in 1981/82. That team came to India having won the Ashes in the series known as Botham's Ashes. He was just incredible with both bat and ball and pretty much single-handedly won the Tests for England. It was a turnaround after England had lost the opening Test of the series and it was celebrated with as much gusto as the 2005 Ashes win. However having won that series under Mike Brearley, England, as is their wont turned to a player who was not part of the Ashes winning squad and made him skipper.
That England team came with huge expectations and hype and were expected to win comfortably. They lost the first Test in a low scoring game and then won the toss in the remaining Tests. Those were the days of five and half hours play and England with Boycott and Chris Tavare at the crease would end up with a score of about 200 in the day. The next day they would attempt to accelerate after lunch, so that they could have a declaration after tea and give India half hour or so of batting. At that stage it would be obvious that with a big score to face, India could not hope to win the game and would be on the back-foot.
Naturally, the attempt was made to try and delay the England team’s declaration with run saving fields and also bowl fewer overs since there was no rule about minimum overs in the days play then. Not that an extra half hour is helping teams bowl 90 overs in the day today and often teams end up a two or three overs short of the target. Funnily, the ICC does not try and make up for the lost overs by beginning play that many minutes early while for a weather-affected game they do so. Why should the spectators be shortchanged and not given the daily quota of overs has never been fully explained. There are some playing conditions that are hard to understand and this is one of them. There is also the one where the on field umpire asks the dismissed batsman to wait even as he checks with the TV umpire if the bowler has overstepped the crease or not. While this is admirable, why the same is not applied for a decision to check if it is the correct one is hard to follow.
Suppose there is reasonable doubt that the batsman had got an inside edge onto the pads when he was given out leg before wicket then it makes sense for the umpire to ask for his colleague in the TV room to see if it can be seen in slow motion replays and if it is seen then the decision can be reversed. Similarly, if an umpire is unsure if a batsman has nicked the ball for a catch close to the wicket he can take the TV umpires assistance in coming to the correct decision. If at all there should be a decision review it should be this way where umpires check with each other whenever there is doubt than the ugly sight of players on the field asking for a review of the decision. Throughout the history of the game the umpire’s decision has been final and no player can challenge it, so why now? Why not leave it to the umpires instead which will also mean that it won’t be restricted to two per innings as is the case now and will be there for every decision where either the on field umpire or the TV umpire feels needs a closer scrutiny with the help of TV slow motion cameras.
Coming back to that 1981 England team, since they could not get through the Indian batting and so were being thwarted they began to look for excuses and typically it was not inwards at the slow batting of their batsmen especially on day one that they blamed, but the opposition as if the opposition should just lie down and be rolled over. As in any walk of life the Chief, Chairman, Captain is the one who gets the flak and so it was yours truly who was blamed for slow over rates, but tell me why should I, or any other skipper bowl lots of overs when he knows that the other team is looking for quick runs to declare their innings closed. So, I did pretty much what was within the playing conditions since for me it was only the Indian team that mattered and not what the opposition wanted or its media. It was the belying of expectations that led to finger pointing without realizing that there were three fingers being pointed right back at them.
Luckily the sport had not degenerated into the abuse factor that is now supposed to show energy and competitiveness when it is simply a case of spoilt kids showing how badly they have been brought up. Sir Ian Botham, was part of that tour and not once did he swear at anybody in the Indian team nor did any other player. They may not have had nice things to say about the Indian players when they got together but they never expressed them ever on the field.
That unfortunately is not the case with the present England team who also came with the belief that having easily beaten India at home all they had to do was turn up on the field and they would win. When it did not quite pan out as they thought it should, some of their players resorted to boorish behaviour and the modern Indian player will give as good as he gets and that added to the annoyance of the visitors.
It’s been a fractious series and England’s coach has not helped matters by supporting his players when he should have been admonishing them for their behaviour. Some England players unfortunately think they are better than they actually are and then when they found out that success was not coming their way have given vent to their frustrations by unseemly behaviour, while some as with most teams do it on the sly away from the microphones or cameras.
It has been a series where India have totally dominated England and shown that at home they are still the Champs.