There is something to be said when a young cricketer takes the onus on himself and thereby, outshines his more illustrious counterparts. Alastair Cook is paving the way for England towards their no.1 Test team goals even as it would seem that the Indian cricketers had a thing or two to teach England.
Looking back on Cook’s innings in the third Test of the India England series at Edgbaston, Birmingham, there has to be a twinge of regret, and more so particularly from the illustrious names in the Indian cricket team because this could have been the pitch that laid the foundation for India’s dramatic comeback into the series.
Having said that, all is not lost yet although India have an impossible seeming task of ahead of them if they are to prevent England from a third victory on the trot against the current no.1 Test ranked team. Batting two days as the pitch tends to favour the bowlers via deterioration and batting on a deficit of 486 and staging a comeback has not been heard of, which is probably why India should look to bat their natural way and see where their fortunes take them.
While Rahul Dravid cannot be faulted after two Test centuries in two Tests, much remains to be desired of V.V.S. Laxman and the man who has been on the cusp of his 100th 100, Sachin Tendulkar. This has been a series where no single Indian batsman could be singled out to be singed. Instead the entire team has been guilty of failing to lift their game when it counts the most. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain, may have silenced his detractors with his seventy-seven run contribution in the first innings but only temporarily as India weigh in their losses in a series where they were supposed to hold their own in a strong battle with the rising stars that comprise the England team.
Laxman’s greatness is limited only by his lapses. An artistic batsman, as rare as they come, Laxman can be a treat for the eyes when in full flow. But then it seems Laxman can be his own enemy at the best and worst of times. His pull shot has been questioned in light of his dismissal, but really it is the soft dismissals that have often deprived cricket of a classically enchanting batting display. That Laxman has not done himself enough justice is evidenced once more on this tour as he has let opportunities go by way of his own moments that are hard to explain from the otherwise brilliance that shines through his bat.
Sachin Tendulkar presents a peculiar scenario because on the one hand, it is hard to fault the man who has been of service for as long as he has and also, by the fact that he has perhaps been at his sublime best in the last couple of years. Therefore, at a time when one would have thought Tendulkar would be hungrier than ever to get to that 100th 100 and thereafter to continue leaving a deep impact on the game, the silence from the maestro is too loud.
In fact that Tendulkar has kept so quiet, as far as his bat is concerned, is cause for alarm because it does point to a few suggestions of whether Tendulkar was right in opting out of the tour of the West Indies and also, perhaps if England, as part of the proof that they are the team to beat, have observed the highest run getter in the sport and figured out the plan to keep him quiet as they suggested at the start of the series.
Increasingly it would appear England’s plans and execution have been on spot because they have not allowed Tendulkar to cut free – or any other Indian cricketer barring Dravid – and instead crammed him and left him deprived of runs, which the England team had stated was the best way of get Tendulkar out. It would seem, even though there are still three innings left in the Test series, that England have done their homework and therefore, have been able to press on without Tendulkar really presenting the threat that he is.
But perhaps there is a greater lesson to be learnt from Alastair Cook himself because through his batting he has shown that a couple of past failures mean nothing if one has the patience to stay on, grit it out and make it count. His 294 runs may not have been artistically fantastic but they were attractive from the perspective that it took England from a good position into a terrific position from where England can spawn new dreams while India would feel drained by the lack of that license.