Welcome, Poms!

 

Down and Out?

Down and out?

Yes, I am a touch late in welcoming the Poms to India but that’s because I was busy saying goodbye to the Pakistan team (lot of consoling that took after the ODIs!). Moreover, the Poms were busy enjoying the hospitality of India on and off the field.

On the field, they succeeded in winning their first 3-day match on the last day and to be honest, most of them sounded rather surprised that they won. Coach Duncan Fletcher, in fact, went to the extent of saying “We did not plan to win”. Now that’s a first.

Off the field, four of five of the visiting party decided to indulge themselves in some of the local cuisine. Not very advisable, let me add what with the bird flu and all around. But no… some of them decided to live dangerously. There are currently four English players on the bench with a case of “Delhi Belly”! (In addition, there are already a couple injured!).

Coming back on the field (sorry for the hop-scotch), they got their real taste of India in the second first-class match against the Board President’s XI. After being bundled out for a paltry 238, at last update, they were struggling with the BP XI at 269/3 with recent discard Gautam Gambhir scoring a 100. The regularity with which a batsman scores a 100 as soon as he is dropped from the India team is alarming. Perhaps good enough to work out a research paper! Now I won’t be surprised if Ganguly scores a 100 and Zaheer and Agarkar pick up 5-wicket hauls in their next matches. Alas…

But the events of the BP XI match is a good indicator of what to expect. Pietersen has shown some promise, but is currently suspect. Vaughan is also down with something. Flintoff hasn’t found his form yet, and Messrs Blackwell, Panesar, Jones and Jones (Geraint and Simon) are very inexperienced when playing in Indian conditions. Morevoer, I don’t think visiting English teams have ever recovered from the 1993 tour when Graham Gooch’s team was rather unceremoniously drubbed by Azhar’s team (namely Anil Kumble, V Raju and Rajesh Chauhan).

Since then, the contests have become keener (not to mention the discovery of the two of the most recent Indian captains on India’s 1996 tour to the Old Blighty) but something gives me this feeling that India has been having the better of them. (We drew the last one there, remember?).

Also, coming on the back of an extremely succesful ODI tour of Pakistan (notice how I eclipsed the Test series!), India are a team on a high. No Ganguly could also be a positive since his presence means there is equal weightage to how he is treated by the coach and captain rather than how he performs. Sehwag is back, Kaif should get another chance (why not) and Yuvraj on the sidelines is shooting his mouth off. Fun shall be had!

I have also been following a poll on the series for the last few days about this series on a group and so far, 68% of those who voted think Flintoff is the biggest weapon England has. At the same time, 98% of voters said India would win the Test series (20% said the margin would be 3-0, 30% each voted for 2-0 and 2-1 while 17 percent said 1-0. Just 2% said the series would draw 1-1).

Not too alarming, these votes, if you ask me. England went to Pakistan all gung-ho only to be battered and packed off home. So after that battering, they had their egos bruised (Ashes winners and all that jazz) and are currently a bruised and battered team. Some of these ilk are said to be dangerous, but I doubt England poses any threat at all.

My prediction: 2-0 for India (the draw is taking into account negative tactics and slow over rates given the number of fast bowlers England has).

And yes, the third Test will happen in aamchi Mumbai. Wankhede beckons.

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