Thursday, July 28, 2011

A lot of miles on the clock

A lot is being said right now both about how drastically undercooked India were for the first Test at Lords last week, and about how their record shows a remarkable ability to bounce back from bad results. In 2002, for example, they got thumped at Lords, held on at Trent Bridge and then won handsomely at Headingley. Well, the proof of that particular pudding will be in he eating of it over the next few weeks. What interested me, however, was looking at those games back in 2002.

Lets take the last Test at the Oval – which I remember chiefly for a dreamy 195 from Michael Vaughan. England’s batsman were Trescothick, Vaughan, Butcher, Crawley, Hussain and Stewart. Their bowlers were Cork, Tudor, Giles, Caddick and Hoggard. Apart from noting the far-off days of a five-man attack, it’s also worth pointing out that none of the above are still playing for England, and only three are even playing first class cricket. But then, it was 9 years ago.

Now lets look at India. Batting: Bangar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman. Three of them played last week, and it would have been four if the selectors had their way. Even in the bowling attack Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan made the eleven a decade ago, and are still wearily ploughing a furrow up to the popping crease. This is an Indian team with a hell of a lot of miles on the clock.

There are three points to make about that. The first is that aging bodies injure easier – it was a biter blow for India when Zaheer hobbled off at Lords with a popped hamstring, but it wasn’t exactly the surprise of the century. The second is that a line-up of superstars can often get a bit too set in their ways. Duncan Fletcher really will have his work cut out persuading his batting galacticos to concentrate on ground fielding and basic fitness. And the third is that aging superstars have a nasty tendency to retire more or less at the same time – Australia in the early 80s, the West Indies in the early 90s, and Australia in the mid 2000s. When the triumvirate of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman go – and they are all pushing 40 – it will leave one hell of a gap in the side. It could prove a pretty short stay at the top for India.

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