No one in their right mind would have believed you had you predicted an outright Ashes triumph for Australia, a Proteas win against India and the failure of the Indian batsmen outside the subcontinent! Why would they listen, both England and India were flying high, winning matches and producing heroes to worship. But by the end of the year, the same winners became losers and the team that was predicted to lose (Australia) came out as the winner. What suddenly changed in a span of a few months that saw zeroes become heroes and vice versa… let’s find out!
The Ashes series has been a bone of contention between Australia and England for more than a century. During the last 10 years, England has had the possession of the urn because they played better cricket, demonstrated mental toughness and handled the pressure well. Not any more, as the Aussies managed to topple the former World number 1 side by taking the first three matches of the series to win back the urn. How did Australia -- a team marred by injuries -- come on top of the usually-disciplined Pommies? Simple, the Aussies used their head instead of their heart and the result is in front of everyone.
Cricket Australia’s decision to bring back bowling coach Craig McDermott can be termed as a masterstroke since it helped the Australia in general, fast bowlers in particular. Not only did he had ample time to work with Ryan Harris (who didn’t tour India due to injury) but also gave Mitchell Johnson the confidence he had lost. He also polished the bowling of Peter Siddle and the result could be seen in the ongoing Ashes series where English batsmen have no clue what hit them!
Similarly, by penalising David Warner for his off-the-field antics, the board set an example that it wouldn’t tolerate such behavior. The result: The opening batsman came back as a better player and scored as many as two centuries in the first three matches of the series to give Australia the kind of the start they dreamed of. Also the decision to carry on with the bespectacled Chris Rogers and to give Test cap to George Bailey also did wonders for the hosts who are now eyeing a whitewash, something they couldn’t have believed a few months back.
As for England, their overconfidence is the reason why they are in such a bad state. They overlooked an experienced Nick Compton in favour of the inexperience Michael Carberry, gave Test cap to Ben Stokes when they could have selected a fit-again Tim Bresnan, didn’t change the main players in the bowling unit despite losing two matches and above all, didn’t take into account that the Aussies might be planning their downfall! They were caught off-guard, were ill-prepared and lost their cool, giving Australia the opening to claw back and reign supreme. It remains to be seen whether Alistair Cook’s men managed to come back from being down three-nil, because at this moment, they will need a miracle to lift their spirits.
And finally, something about the men who wear blue at home but turn yellow when abroad! Team India is famous for beating the crap out of the best sides in the world when in India, but they lose the touch (when abroad) as quickly as Dr Jekyll turned into Mr Hyde. For Dhoni’s men, chasing 350 was a piece of cake in familiar conditions but when the bowlers were blasted for the same amount of runs in South Africa, they couldn’t even reach the target. While a 20-year old Quinton de Kock scored as many as three centuries against the hapless Indian bowlers in as many matches, the failure of the latest double centurion in ODI cricket -- Rohit Sharma -- hit the tourists hard. In the first match, he couldn’t hit the ball in the first few overs despite being in the form of his life. Same goes for the other stalwarts -- Shekhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja who are the perfect example of heroes at home, zeroes abroad.
Some believe that the wickets in South Africa were different from the ones on which the Indian cricketers had scored runs -- outside India! The argument could have been valid had the hosts also failed on these pitches but they didn’t and runs were scored at will. The blame for India’s dismal performance abroad falls on the BCCI (Board for Control of Cricket in India) which -- for reasons better known to them -- didn’t agree to send their side for a full tour because they didn’t go along with the President of the rival cricket Board!
Yes they might be the biggest contributor to the ICC, they might have won all the trophies, but playing on the field is what matters. Indians didn’t fare well in South Africa because they didn’t have a practice match ahead of the ODI series and the captain believed that the same team that defeated West Indies at home, would be able to repeat their heroics in South Africa. The captain got it all wrong, and the team that lost to Pakistan a few days before destroyed the Indians as if they were minnows of the game!