India, where are your young men of change, where are your revolutionary Test cricketers? It is your time or it is no time. Go look at the Trophy: Read the names.
The Border/Gavaskar Trophy being contested at this moment may prove to be a seminal Test series to match that of the 1928-29 series between Australia and England. It may change the course of cricketing history. Let’s hope so.
In 1928, Australia, after a period of dominance in world cricket found their stars aging but its Cricket Board, out of touch and inert, were unable to reconstruct their side in time before coming up against a very strong England side.
Australia were hammered 1 – 4. For England across the series, Hammond scored 905 runs at an average of 113.12, and Hendren, Sutcliffe,Hobbsand Jardine all averaged over 40.
Among the England bowlers Geary, White, Larwood and Tate took 79 wickets between them.
But although it was not obvious at the time, the series initiated an exciting period of change in Test cricket – a period of unprecedented attack and counter attack.
That series-drubbing deeply influenced the mentality of a young Australian debutante in the side, Don Bradman, who went on to bat without mercy in the return series when he surpassed Hammond with an aggregate of 974 runs in 7 innings at an average of 139.14, as Australia, with nine players in their twenties of whom six were under 23, regained the Ashes.
The Bradman experience led to Jardine (and Warner’s) experiment with leg theory, as cricket’s evolution accelerated once more and the world’s most exciting bowlers tested the Australian batsmen to the limit outside the off stump as well as outside the leg. It was pace, raw pace, even more than direction that placed some of the best batsmen in the world under the most intense of investigations. It was cricket being played out there … by both teams.
Today in the third Test of this series, played at Perth, India have again been put to the sword. Perth was always going to be India’s Nemisis – fast, bouncy, alien – and yet also the perfect surface for Warner to attack with an extraordinary 69 ball century and who on 104 is still there with his partner at 149/0. Perth cricket is Test cricket.
How will India respond, not tomorrow, not during the rest of the series, but strategically?
First they are going to have to decide whether they just want to nurture T20 experts or find someway of decontaminating their game and its effect on young players. Of repairing the damaged inflicted on their batting DNA by the IPL.
Secondly, if they are to compete away from home, surely they have to do something about their wickets. (It is a shame that Test wickets, like Test umpires, are not the responsibility of the ICC, but, although this will happen one day, Third Man is not holding his breath.)
Drubbings can have either a paralysing effect on the victim or they can energize. An establishment can retreat to its bunker and press on regardless in a state of delusion (like the Australian Cricket Board in 1928), or it can respond with change, innovation and renewed vigour. Batsmen can ‘farm’ the riches of the IPL or say, as many in other countries have, “I want to be judged as a Test cricketer and found exceptional.”
Bradman, who won the PR battle, was an exceptional cricketer because he was a man of steel. Jardine, who did not, was also exceptional and made England winners in a manner that was revolutionary and before its time.
Young Indian batsmen have been quick to take up the innovations of others and exercise them in T20 and may have looked more promising for Test cricket than they really are.
Change is effected not by innovators but by revolutionaries, men of steel and extraordinary substance – the Bradmen, the Jardines, the Clive Lloyds, the Steve Waughs and especially the Borders and the Gavaskars who now fittingly lend their names to the contests between their two countries.
India, where are your young men of change, where are your revolutionary Test cricketers? It is your time or it is no time. Go look at the Trophy and read the names.