England were deplorable in India and while it had been apparent in England that they would struggle here, the capitulation came as a surprise. I had expected better only because I rate this England side, but to be honest I felt let down by a couple of things.
One was the disinclination to use their feet and hit the ball in the gaps. While much has been talked about the need to clear the boundaries on the sub-continent, much of it valid, there is also a great need to rotate the strike. England's DNA has always been to sweep and it is a dangerous shot in India if you don’t sweep for length. Their batting coach Graham Gooch and their coach Andy Flower were extraordinary players of the shot but that doesn’t mean everyone can do it as well.
The other aspect I was disappointed by was the assumption that a verbal confrontation can upset a player. It is one of the more disagreeable aspects of our game, which, at its best, is a contest between bat and ball across different conditions. Teams that feel the need to abuse bring the game into disrepute and the quicker we stamp that out the better off we will be. It will not make the game softer; bravery lies in combating the opposition and the conditions, not in abuse. Already far too many fifteen-year-olds have started behaving badly because they emulate their heroes. Yellow and red cards, even a sin-bin, are not bad ideas.
India must wonder why, for all their experience in playing twenty-over cricket, they seem to lose more matches than they win. They were poor in the ICC World T20 both in England and in the West Indies and a deep and experienced batting line-up failed them in Kolkata. On paper, the balance was right, especially for Indian conditions, but England weren’t stretched too much. With another World T20 due in eleven months it is something to be concerned about.
Before that India go to Australia and after that England return to India. Hopefully there will be less rancour and more contests between bat and ball in both!
(Harsha Bhogle, is writing in his role as a Castrol Index spokesperson)