Kolkata: On Monday night, ten men from the Barmy army that has English fans who follow England team all around the world, were creating quite a racket at Kolkata’s old haunt Olly’s pub in the famous Park Street.
|Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir during a practice session at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday
They were singing, cheering, jeering, and having quite a ball. Now and then, the local patrons tried to get them to quieten down but in vain.
As one stepped out for some air, the door man whispered, ‘Yeh sab India harne k wajeh sey. Varna yeh log toh shok sabha manate (All this because India lost; else this bunch usually mourns).
Not quite true as the Barmy army is always known for their bacchanalia, win or lose, but there was certain boisterousness in the air that night, a certain josh probably bolstered by the win at Mumbai.
Rarely would they have come to this land in the recent past and seen success. Times they are changing. Somehow, you associate a tough home series in India with Australia or South Africa but England?
They have been mostly pushovers from the 90’s and spin and puff of dust swirling up from the dusty tracks have usually seen them wilt but yesterday, it was the Indian captain who faced all the questions about the pitches and whether spinning tracks will backfire again.
And the England captain was happily talking about how the spin track helped them at Mumbai and he wouldn’t mind another.
With the senior players in bad form, the newbies just taking their initial steps, spinners being a work in progress, and a defensive captain at his wit’s end, a Test loss even at home shouldn’t really shock us but the past, India’s and England’s, blinded us so much that the Mumbai debacle stunned many.
One suspects, if it were South Africa, who have travelled well in India for quite a while now, or Australia, no one would have as surprised by the loss.
But England? Weren’t they supposed to roll over and surrender? And here they are confidently looking ahead to a Test in Eden Gardens, where India haven’t lost a game in the last decade. Oh what a turn around.
Dhoni sticks to turners
It was a funny press conference yesterday for Dhoni was defending his preferences for turning pitches in India. “You have to stick to your strength. It’s not about who wins the Test match… Whatever the result may be, we should stick to the kind of wicket our speciality is.” Ah! Poor Dhoni.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that statement but somehow one feels Dhoni would never have thought his team will lose, and so badly at that, to England at home. He has to now twist his spin wish into something more like a statesman: That it’s good for world cricket that one has pitches of varying nature all around the world.
A similar sentiment was echoed by a member of the Indian contingent, who whispered into this writer’s ears: “Australia also lost by over 300 runs to South Africa in Perth. So does that mean, Australia won’t want fast pitches at their home?” Good that he brought up Australia for its where this spin-wish seed was sown in everyone’s mind.
When David Warner was whiplashing the Indians during a whirlwind ton in Perth, Virat Kohli walked up to him and told him that ‘Let’s see what happens when you come to India; we shall see how much you average’, or words to that effect.
That evening, Warner not only recounted that sledge with glee but also criticised the Indians, saying how that attempted sledge showed India were mentally weak and had already given up trying to win in Australia.
Few months down the line, and especially after the Mumbai Test, that sledge, which looked silly then, looks embarrassing now. What can one expect at Eden Gardens on a slow pitch which Dhoni reckons should have something for seamers due to the early 9.00am start.
England have the pacy Steven Finn who should make use of any help on offer but once again it will come down to how the Indian spinners bowl and what kind of start the Indian top three can provide to their middle-order.
And if England do win, don't be surprised and if you are at Park Street then, please don't ask the Barmy army to be quiet.