The irony was hard to miss. As the ICC announced that England, Australia and India alone would control international cricket, so that they could gobble up more funds and privileges, came a couple of shockers.
India, the ‘at home’ champions in the game, were thrashed by South Africa in the Test and one-day series played away from home. The next thrashing (4-0) was at the hands of lowly New Zealand, where the champions suffered a near whitewash.
Just prior to this twin disaster, England, another member of the ‘holy trinity,’ lost the ‘Ashes’ 5-0 in an away series and also lost the one-day and T 20 series.
We knew anything was possible in international cricket, but how will India and England, with their tails firmly tucked between their legs, impose their will on the rest of the cricket playing world?
The New Zealand one-day series, which ended on Friday, provided entertaining cricket — entertainment for the home crowd, humiliation for the arrogant super rich ‘Men in Blue.’ From the mid-1940s, when New Zealand entered the game, they had occasionally produced wonderful, unexpected victories. When these dried up they began to excel in the one-day version. The stronger teams, including India, found the Kiwis full of pluck and nuisance value.
Yet no one expected ‘world champions’ India to be royally thrashed by
New Zealand, which is ranked number 8 in the world. After all, India had the best on-the-paper batting order, a new crop of medium pacers, captain M S Dhoni was regarded as the ‘best finisher,’ and the new opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikar Dhavan treated opening attacks with sheer contempt. New Zealand’s Star spinner Daniel Vettori was out of the game with injuries. Their medium pace attack was described as pathetic and the top batsmen in the side led by Ross Taylor promised much, but delivered rarely. There was also a captaincy tussle between Taylor and MaCullum, and the Kiwis were ahead of India only in fielding.
It was bad luck for India that this handsome Kiwi side was full of surprises: The opening pair of Guptill and Ryder could churn out a quick ’50’, the middle order led by Taylor, Williamson and MaCullum was consistent, and the lower middle order and the tail attacked ferociously. A 21-year-old new kid, Corey Anderson, scored mainly in fours and sixes, bowled effective off spin and fielded like one possessed. The medium pacers attacked intelligently and used the shot ball effectively. In fact, it appeared to be an ‘ideal’ one-day team minus any stars. The captaincy of MaCullum was inspiring but unobtrusive. Finally, the young New Zealanders were confident and appeared to enjoy their cricket.
Dhoni and co, egged on by a fawning media, believed they had actually won the closely fought drawn test against South Africa. As usual, the captain was a monument of patience, believing that his IPL tested teammates (Ashwin, Murli Vijay, Raina and Jadeja) could win any match for India. Well, New Zealand has smashed this myth. Dhoni’s captaincy was mechanical: you could predict when he would shift fielder ‘X’ or claim Suresh Raina was the best middle order bat in the world. Was he receiving divine messages from super boss Srini? The criticism of Dhoni, after two away series defeats, was washed away by ‘victories’ against a weak West Indies team and he was all set to lead India in the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Don’t worry, we have the best all-rounder in the world, the ‘swish and miss’ Jadeja, bunny rabbit Raina and robot Ashwin led by the super robot.