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Monday September 05 2011

Cricinfo boffin Anantha Narayanan:

My surmise was correct. In the 210 4/5/6 match Test series played so far, the England win over India is the most comprehensive and devastating in history of Test cricket. That is what many experts are saying but this is now proved here with hard analytical conclusions.

Remarkable.

I found the series utterly fascinating from beginning to end, despite its ever more extreme one-sidedness.  Partly, this was ignoble sadism, watching my team slaughter the other fellows.  But there was another slightly more honourable impulse at work, I think.  The thing is, England have never played like this before.  England don’t do whitewashes, or whatever such slaughters are more properly called when the white guys beat the non-white guys. They don’t win the series with a succession of wins, with no draws, and then win the dead test match at the end as well, also by an innings.  If anything, I found the final test the most riveting of all.  Would England keep it going, and win the lot?  Yes they would.  Yes they did.  Wow.  Fancy that.

There was also a backhanded compliment involved in my gloating.  I can remember when England slaughtering India at cricket was about as much fun to contemplate as someone torturing a cat.  It proved only that England were being horrid to poor defenceless India.  It didn’t prove anything about England’s prowess.  Ditto New Zealand.  But India, in cricket and in the world generally, is now a major force, a fact reflected in their recent number one test match status and nouveau riche economic status, second only in public esteem in that particular contest to China.  This result was as freakishly bad for them as it was freakishly good for England, which is all part of how freakishly good it was for England.  India can live with us poor little Brits gloating about beating them at a mere game, while they continue to take over our steel industry.  So, I gloat.

This, by the way, and I apologise for tangenting off, is one of the sources of anti-Americanism.  Anti-Americanism is a similarly backhanded compliment, paid by the world to the top country in the world.  Americans, we all instinctively know, can take it.  If people ever start hating China more than America, then watch out America, because that will mean that China is the top country.

But this is a cricket posting, so I really don’t want to end with that digression.  And yes, there are a couple more things I want to say about cricket.

The first concerns a disagreeable new habit that the television cricket commentators have suddenly acquired, probably from Geoff Boycott.  Whenever anything happens, instead of pausing, thinking, and then saying something pertinent, in clear-as-a-bell English, they are now groaning.  Boycott and Michael Vaughan are the main offenders, so maybe it’s a Yorkshire thing.  Ooooooh.  Ooooor.  Awwwww.  Errrrrr.  Often there is a rising inflection to it, as if they are disapproving of what they see.  In short, the television commentators are starting to sound exactly like spectators.  This is not what they are paid to do.  They should be sent away on courses, presided over by Richie Benaud, the Pope of the pause think say something pertinent school of commentating.  The worst offence was right at the end of one of the games.  Instead of saying: England have won by however many runs it was, Boycott groaned and moaned and said something highly non-pertinent.  Terrible.

The second thing I want to say about India is that I hope England slaughter them in the one-dayers also.  England have already won the only T20 game, but then got the worst of a rained off start to the 50 over series.  I hope that is no portent and that England come back hard and win the rest of the ODI series 4-0.

I do not say this out of sadism.  I say it because cricket needs India to be good, and nothing provokes cricket goodness like a jolly good thrashing.  England’s current excellence is directly traceable to earlier humiliations, when the Aussies five-nothing-ed them in 2006-7 or thenabouts, and when the Windies blew them away in Jamaica, just after Andy Flower became the coach.  If India win these ODIs, lots of Indians will say: there you are, when we try, we win.  Test cricket is boring, who needs it?  We are the one day kings and we just proved it.  Our team’s okay.  It’s test matches that are the problem, blah blah blah.  Cricket very much now needs Indians not to be able to say this, but instead to say to themselves: bloody hell, we are rubbish at ... cricket.  All of it.  We must spend some of our new money by not being so rubbish, across all the formats. 

"Anti-Americanism is a similarly backhanded compliment, paid by the world to the top country in the world.  Americans, we all instinctively know, can take it. “

I have thought for decades that the large number of upper class British villains featured in US TV programmes is a similar compliment to the very law abiding nature of the British upper classes.

Posted by Natalie Solent on 08 September 2011

A couple of caveats here: firstly Anantha Narayanan’s analysis was only for series of four, five, and six matches. His rationale for only including these is a reasonable one, but I think that there is a slight bias to the players of four match series over five or six. Essentially, it is easier to play this well for four games than it is to keep it going for five or six. Could England have kept this up for two more games and maintained the same sort of margins? Quite possibly, but we don’t actually know.

Secondly, many fewer games are ruined by rain than was the case in the past. We are much better at covering pitches and outfields and mopping up after bad weather than we used to be, sometimes we turn lights on, plus we attempt to make lost time up later outside regular playing hours. This is one reason why we get more results than we did in the few decades after the second world war. (We probably don’t get more results than in the days of uncovered pitches and sticky wickets, but sticky wickets led to randomness in outcomes that made it harder for one side to be dominant, so there is another factor making it harder for one team to be quite as dominant in play there instead).

So my feeling is that for various reasons it is probably easier to gain a high score on that methodology now than at most times in the past. England were terrific, no question.

In 1989, Australia came to England and after two matches discovered that they were ridiculously dominant. They weren’t used to this, and kept playing hard to the end of that series because it was so enjoyable. They might have won that series 6-0 with today’s rules and rain mopping up equipment, as they won four and were completely dominant in what was played of the two games that were lost to rain. My feeling is that England are partly in this situation now. Winning like this is new, and they will keep doing it simply because it feels great for at least a little while. The incentive of the ratings may be part of it - it was certainly an incentive to win the series by at least two games, but they kept going and won by four - but some of this is the newness of it. Australia lost this when they got used to being good. There is still a danger that this will happen to England too.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 09 September 2011

On the other hand, we have just lost most of a session of the Sri Lanka v Australia test at Pallekele in Sri Lanka due to bad light. Although there are lights at the ground, they were not allowed to turn them on, because there are not lights at the venues used for the other tests in the series, and “consistency” is required. This is one of the more idiotic rulings I have seen in a while

Posted by Michael Jennings on 09 September 2011

Bad light in Pallekele stopped play.

“Oh dear. How tragic.” ;-)

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 09 September 2011

I’m little bit upset for India team. There performance is gives disappointment to all the Indian fans. But I’ve to admit that England team performance is outstanding. Anyway I hope they’ll soon over come with better performance. Thanks :)

Posted by Ben Smith on 27 September 2011

India team will do much better from now on, Indian fans should have patience with that, it’s very hard to compete, England team is unbelievable.

Posted by Fred Cobber on 05 October 2011
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