The unconquerable, dreaded and turn-a-mile sub-continental barrier has been finally breached. Touring Englishmen have always been beaten, humbled and embarrassed in India. It remained a dreaded destination for them as Indian spinners made them look like a bunch of novices, for whom cricket happens to be a national game. Well, not anymore! India, hailed as a land of spinners and a nemesis to visiting teams could no longer be what it was. The man who preached self-belief and one who turned pretenders into genuine match-winners, is the man of the hour, Alastair Chef Cook, the English cricket captain transformed a bunch of nay-Sayers into genuine match winners. The result: England gobbling up a rare yet resounding away-series win over India in India after 28 long years. English team for once bathes-in and rejoices a gorgeous series victory, hailed as the sweetest, yet difficult for cricket teams that tour India.
Swept away 4-0 by England in their backyard, Indians were determined to inflict the same fate on England in the return series.(India have played 4 tests in England and England had to do same). The return series assumed huge interest of sorts as media started projecting it as "The revenge series". India indeed tried to avenge the humiliating series loss, by taking refuge in rank turners and started off well with a credible victory in the series opener at Motera, Ahmedabad. She was on course and the Englishmen were in a for a familiar recipe. To make things worse, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain, opted for rank turners for the remainder of the series that turn from day one. BCCI, the Indian cricket board, was compelled to giving into MSD, for he is easily one of their most successful and articulate captains, India has ever had.
However, the move boomeranged on Dhoni and co as England unleashed a surprise weapon in Monty Panesar. He along with Graeme Swann has spun the formidable Indian middle order into a web, which they found too hot and hard to get out from. Smitten by surprise, Indians fell apart and caved in meekly, what with their famous middle order wilting under pressure. It's rather heart-breaking to Indian fans, for they supported MSD and his men right through the troubled times in both England and Australia, India stands white-washed by both countries 4-0 each, for a collective debacle of 8-0. MSD's hour of shame is complete as India slipped from a towering World No.1 status to nowhere. Dhoni would not have imagined, even in his wildest of dreams that England would claw back their way into the series and actually go onto hand out a crushing series defeat to India in India. Indeed history beckoned on the English team.
And the man who authored the script is Alastair Cook. True, he had a very balanced team in his armory, that is definitely capable of delivering in all conditions, but simply refuses to believe so. He had the unenviable task of transforming the side into a bunch of believers and in order to do that he had to do it, all by himself first, particularly after England lost badly in the series opener. Alastair Cook, call him Chef, exactly did that with a superb display of awesome composure and determination while batting at the crease and while leading on the field. He showed his mates, how spin must be smothered and grinded, while putting the loose ball away.
He scored 3 centuries out of which 2 were "Daddy hundreds"(a term coined by former English captain and current batting coach, Graham Gooch). He failed only in an inconsequential Nagpur match.
He scored a 190 in Kolkata, 122 in Mumbai(both England won) and 176 in Ahmedabad in a losing cause though. The partnership, which he established with Kevin Pietersen, has changed the course of the series for good and paved the way for English dominance. KP, who looked lost in Ahmedabad, took centerstage in Mumbai and hammered Indian bowling to all corners of the park. KP scored a brilliant 186 and was rightly adjudged man of the match. Chef, also showed a great cricketing acumen in letting Monty Panesar make the first use of the ball ahead of Graeme Swann, their premium spinner. Monty was not played in Ahmedabad, but he responded splendidly wreaking havoc on a sharp turning Mumbai pitch. The ball that bowled Sachin Tendulkar was a peach and even the master had to relent and take a bow.
While Panesar and Swann spun sharply and accounted for most Indian dismissals, their Indian counterparts in Ashwin, Ojha and Harbhajan drew flak, not able to breakthrough Chef and KP in their monstrous partnership that literally dictated the outcome of the series. Pujara was the lone brightspot for India, with the rest, including masterly, Sachin R Tendulkar being taken to cleaners. Cook's defiance and mastery motivated other top order batters like Trott, Bell and Nick Compton to give their best. Compton in particular grew in confidence and established big partnerships with Cook during the course of the series.
The series proves it beyond an iota of doubt that self-belief is a great virtue to possess and anyone can accomplish anything with little regard to conditions and invincibility is only a sporting myth. Alastair Cook, Hail the leader and a champion!
image(s) Courtesy: www.guardian.co.uk