11 players produce results, not the 22 yards of turf

Harsha Bhogle

You see it in sport all the time don't you? Teams just slipping over the line between creating conditions to suit themselves, which is acceptable, and believing in their invincibility in the conditions thus created. "Leave the grass on and have a drink on the 4th day" the grizzly hard veterans in the pubs will say. "Turner ray, from phirst morning...no chance" their counterparts sipping cutting chai will proclaim in an Irani restaurant. Sometimes players can get caught up in such scripts too. The groundsman is anointed the matchwinner. It cannot be so and there is a sense of joy in the sportslover when the contrary scenario unfolds.

Did India get caught up into thinking that it wasn't eleven players but twenty two yards that would win them the series? Having struggled against bounce and pace, did they allow themselves to believe that turn was all that was needed to return the compliment? Somewhere, did a hurt ego seek comfort in a larger ego? Did India commit the cardinal sin in sport of underestimating the opponent? In life, as in sport, when you belittle the opponent he turns around and bites you. India have done it to others and I greatly fear it was done to them in Mumbai.

There are many qualities that line up in a contest. Skill is the most obvious one, resolve is the stronger one to possess. When conditions are against you, teams can either slip into despair and hopelessness, which is what England have tended to do on the sub-continent, or they can give birth to resolve and England, I suspect, discovered it within themselves. It is a sign of character and the new captain Alastair Cook and the team that played in Mumbai showed a lot of it.

The test match in Mumbai reminded me of two other games in recent years. I was in Perth in 2008 when, after the unsavoury, even unbecoming, drama of the Sydney test a bouncy track was unveiled to the tourists. India were meant to lose in three days, in part to the bounce in part to the disappointment of the result in Sydney. But courage can sometimes sit alongside adversity and India produced one of their finest performances ever to beat Australia at their game. In 82 overs of pace in the first innings, Australia's feted four pronged attack took 9 for 261. India's relatively inexperienced bowlers, in the same conditions, bowled 38 overs and took 8 for 165. Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Ishant Sharma did in Perth what Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann did in Mumbai. It wasn't skill alone, it was resolve for India were led strong in Australia.

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