Lutters’ summer lines - part nine

S0, the England team have managed it and now sit proudly on top of the world Test rankings, and thoroughly deserve to be there having usurped their current opponents India off the top spot.

The manner of England’s win over the former world number one’s was as impressive for an England fan as it was depressing for an Indian fan.

Losing by an innings and 242 runs is a thumping in anyone’s book, with India requiring a third similar innings to their actual two in order to match England’s one innings.

This is a great achievement for the England set-up, who announced around two years ago that this was their aim and sure enough, if this were a performance management interview at work, all boxes could be ticked.

What does dampen the spirits a little is the fact that India are simply rubbish, and if that’s the standard of the current opposition, then why haven’t England been top for a while?

This is obviously a little unfair, as South Africa are a good side, so are Sri Lanka, and Pakistan on their day, although not being allowed to play in their own country due to safety reasons may hinder their progress, but India are on an alarming decline, similar to that of Australia after 2006.

Nothing can be said of the England team that hasn’t already been said. Alastair Cook’s marathon, and record-breaking innings was superb, Strauss found some form, as did Morgan. We did learn that Ravi Bopara can only score runs against the West Indies’ mediocre attack and that he probably shouldn’t be considered for England again, but as he plays for Essex, he’ll probably be one of the names on the tour party sheet. That’s another story that I may bore you with at some point.

The home side’s bowlers exploited movement and generally bowled in the areas that they are paid to bowl in, although Tremlett is living up to his reputation of being made of biscuits. Tremlett’s injury, and Anderson’s fitness for the final Test at the Oval have allowed other people a look in, namely Tim Bresnan, who will be exceptionally unlucky if he loses his place in the next 24 months, and Graham Onions is now back in the fold after a terrible time with injuries.

That’s not to mention the likes of Shahzad, Woakes, Plunkett, and dare I mention a Sussex seamer having a great season, James Anyon? This only goes to show that England are blessed with seam bowling talent at the moment, but with a tour to the sub-continent on the horizon, spin options are of a more pressing concern, where the cupboard is actually relatively bare.

Coming back to this current India series, though, the visitors appalling showing highlights a few things:

The Indian side are getting old – it comes to us all, and certainly happened to Australia, who are now a solid fifth in the world having been at number one for 14 years.

The talent of the selectors to seamlessly blend youth and experience has failed miserably, partly through arrogance, with the attitude that “it could never happen to us”. Well it has and they need to find some quality players very quickly. Dravid (38), Tendulkar (38), Laxman (36), Sehwag (32) are the bulk of their batting, and if you add Zaheer Khan (32) into the mix, not only do you have some high numbers as far as sportsmen are concerned, but you also have the spine of the team, which really should worry Indian fans.

The Indian seam bowlers are relatively young, except the injured, and best, Zaheer Khan, but they are not up to the job. The best of them is Praveen Kumar, a relative unknown but who has a big heart and a lots of talent, if little pace.

As a cricket fan you can’t fail to be impressed with the way he has tried during this Test series and even refused the arm guard Duncan Fletcher, team coach, sent out as he wore a spell from Broad, Bresnan and Anderson.

Sharma doesn’t move it off straight, Sreesanth blows it down now and Harbhajan doesn’t scare international batsmen anymore. It’s a worry, but I expect to see RP Singh in the next Test, and for him to take wickets.

India’s preparation for this series has been poor and ultimately arrogant. Much of the squad played in the lucrative IPL and are essentially tired and over-worked. They had one warm-up game before the series started, which is not enough considering the difference in conditions compared to back home. The squad look unfit and “under-cooked” as Michael Atherton would say.

It’s no surprise that India’s “wonderful” top order has failed in this series, apart from Dravid that is.

Few have the technique to deal with a moving or bouncing ball, apart from Dravid again. Sehwag’s “king pair” only highlights this. He’d have got away with both dismissals back home in India. The fact that they have taken India to the top of the world ranking is mainly down to the fact that they play at least half of their games in India, where the ball doesn’t swing, seam or bounce.

It does spin, but you can’t have everything I suppose. This is the reason that Test cricket is losing popularity in the sub-continent because there is no contest: the ball gets smashed to all parts and every game ends up being drawn with runs aplenty.

All-in-all this series, which had so much going for it in principal, has been very disappointing in that it hasn’t been a contest in any sense of the word.

India have been awful, and England have been very good (I wouldn’t go as far as superb). England can only beat what is put in front of them, but the whole appeal of sport to a paying public is to watch a contest, and frankly this series hasn’t been anything of the sort.