The English Team was at cross roads in Pakistan. I had written on the same nearly 3 months ago which can be read here. I titled it facing adveristy. In the period which has followed since then, England has enountered a lot of adversity. A menacing Shoaib Akhtar in Pakistan and a series of unfortunate events leading 4 of their first XI to withdraw from the tour of India being unquestionably the biggest external adversities. The internal weaknesses they have shown shouldnâ€™t be forgotten.
With the collapse in Pakistan and throwing away a match England should have probably drawn in India in the second test of the series in Mohali, it has probably let slip the opportunity to challenge Australia for now. From being the unquestionable number 2 side, it has gone down a step in the close battle of the number 2.
In fact, it also finds itself at a position inferior to Pakistan. Pakistan appear to have lost Shoaib Akhtar for the immediate future. However there is some time to go for Pakistanâ€™s tour of England. If Pakistan can manage even a draw in that series, it would mean that Pakistan has set itself above the current English side.
And what about South Africa? South Africa played superbly in Australia. It is now involved in the home series versus Australia. If South Africa can manage a victory or even a draw, it can be accepted as a strong team despite Glenn McGrath not playing in the current series and despite what Chris Fogarty has to say regarding only the Ashes mattering, test cricket is about more than just The Ashes. John Stern analyses the current situation and the mouth watering prospect which lies ahead of us much more judiciously.
India may be finding bowlers (Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla) who might show some potency in times to come. However, with it playing just 2 test series in the run up to World Cup 2007 and having lost the series to Pakistan (despite it being like a 1 test series), India finds itself behind the pack in this chase. Did New Zealand not go behind a huge distance in one session in their home series versus Pakistan where Shoaib Akhtar wrecked them? It did India no favours that for them that the home series versus England was always going to be The Nothing Series. India in fact loosened their noose in the tussle they failed to win their last series in the West Indies. That they lost the home series versus Australia did them no favours. They have been chasing as a back runner since then and will have to keep persisting. They do not find themselves in the picture before the pyajama cricket – World Cup 2007 is done and dusted with.
Climbing up the ladder is difficult. It requires consistent brilliant performances. New Zealand is finding it out the hard way. It is doomed in mid table for the time being. Has England let itâ€™s opportnity slip by two collapses, one in Pakistan and one in India? The importance is not in that England lost. England would be respectable losers after drawing their first test match in India. The importance was in the manner in which a match which should have been drawn was lost. A win in Mumbai is now needed for England to remain in the race. Very difficult but it is the only way England can stop the opportunity from slipping. No one said the battle was ever going to be easy!
Pakistan does have a small lead ahead of the rest of the pack – England, South Africa and India. South Africa has the best chance to contend with Pakistan. While all this is going on, Australia cannot work out who the right players are for their international side. A side which boasted of depth finds itself bringing back older warriors who were discarded after the Ashes war was lost. The batsmen are not showing consistency. There is no sign of a future Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne. Most importantly, Australia has set such high standards for themselves that they will themselves find it difficult to maintain these levels. Even if McGrath and Warne do manage to play for a few more years, it will be very difficult for Australia to not slip from itâ€™s high intensity performances is now characterized with. Some would argue that the slipping has already started.
Very interesting times to be a test cricket fan.