The Old Trafford Wreck

By Shyam Kamal

Old Trafford – the home of Manchester United. The graveyard of giants. One after the other, big teams have toured this place with great ambitions, only to have been slapped on the cheek mercilessly, and sent away like a child being told off. The list speaks for itself – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Newcastle, City and sometimes even Europe’s first were not spared. When India came to Old Trafford for the fourth test, after the morale boosting victory at Lord’s followed immediately by the drubbing at Southampton, they SHOULD have been aware of this. Maybe they thought that since the sport was different, the result would be different. Pity

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For even a non-cricket follower, the magnitude of the defeat would seem Himalayan. A paltry 152 in the first innings followed by an equally unimpressive 161 in the second. 6 ducks in the first innings because of which the admins at troll cricket had a field day in the office. The combined number of overs the team faced was a mere  89.4 – 2 balls short of the allotted 90 in a day. Not even the rain gods could save this pathetic pack of paper tigers. It was all over in 3 days even when the rain took half a day away. Strongest batting side in the planet? Nobody will think so again.

This has conjured up familiar images from the 2011 tour. The time where we went to England FOUR NOTHING. Despaired faces. Fallen heroes. Tired players. The Indians struggling against the English. They had ruled our land for over 200 years, but we have rarely conquered their backyard. This time was supposed to be different. Revenge was supposed to be taken. Old memories were supposed to be drowned in the joy of victory. But reality just sucks.

The only saving graces since that success in the second test have been Dhoni, Rahane, and Bhuvi, and to an extent  Ashwin’s batting in the fourth. The rest of the team has imploded like none could have imagined. The batsmen get out to  balls that are harmless than the police in GTA. Bowlers bowl like those in EA cricket 2007 with difficulty 1. The team, as a whole, looks without that touch of aggression.

The  players whose failure have cost the team the most are – Pujara, Kohli and Dhawan in that order . Dubbed as the next Dravid, the next Sachin and the next Sehwag in that order. It is natural that Dhawan would fail occasionally, due to his innate aggressive mentality. But failing in six innings on the trot without any reason to show for it is rather unconvincing. Not even in a single outing did he show the ability to play according to the situation. When you are hell bent on living by the sword , chances are high that you will die by it. And he has.

Virat Kohli – the boy wonder. The poster boy of the Indian youth brigade. The next big thing in Indian cricket. Or, so it seemed until this tour. All his reputation has been torn apart leaving him as just another arrogant lad. People were so used to seeing him bashing the bowlers all around the park that they couldn’t digest the vision of bowlers inducing edges from that bat of his. Every tiny detail about him is now being analysed with increasing scrutiny. He would do himself a great deal of good if he would just focus on his cricket rather than inviting Anushka sharma along with him. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. True

The person whose failure had had the greatest impact on the team has single handedly been Chateshwar Pujara. Because he is (or was) the only one capable of play a long innings. He is the only one who has(or had) the uncanny knack of remaining not out. His job was to look for signs of trouble and bail the team out of it. He had to drop anchor and make sure that the ship did not sink, even though it meant slower progress. He was the guardian angel of the team. And he almost always did the job to the T. But that ‘almost’  has proved to be the doom. In England, where his skills were most required, he has been absconding. The general whose job was to take the squad through the enemy territory, has gone AWOL. He will never get his due medal of honour until he has greater heroics to show. Never.

One more test to go. One more take at victory. One test for all those yet to perform, to prove that they have what it takes. Or more than that. But the English have momentum on their side. It will take only an immovable body to stop that unstoppable force. With the conditions at hand, there is no salvation at sight. A 3-1 result looks inevitable. For God’s sake, let us just HOPE I am wrong.

 

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