There's nothing like an English tour to make me feel young again...by the time it ends, I always regress to the teenaged troll I used to be. Which is why I know someone's to blame for this 4-1 hammering, only I can't decide who.
Is it that elderly man-about-town, masked by his shades who shakes hands a lot after India loses? Or might it be that assembly line of dashing young men in their bristling beards, so good with a trimmer, so bad with a bat? Perhaps we can blame the captain for his fickleness as a selector (there's nothing else he can be reasonably accused of failing at): leaving Pujara out of the team for the first Test or not dropping Pandya earlier? Can we pan Pandya without people inconveniently bringing up the five wickets he took in the third Test to win us that match? Maybe it's best to blame Ashwin. How does that unfit no-hoper even get a look-in when we have a bearded warrior like the great Jadeja waiting to twirl his bat?
4-1 is unacceptable. It's a bloody scandal. I mean, 3-1 was unacceptable four years ago. I said so then. I remember we won the first Test in 2014 when Ishant bounced the English out...that was the series Kohli averaged 13 or something (he was definitely to blame, then). But at least we could tell ourselves that 3-1 was better than 4-0. 4-0 was the series score three years earlier, at the end of the 2011 tour. 3-1 was bad-unacceptable like I said-but plotted on a curve, it was the beginning of an upturn. But this 4-1: it's like we're getting more unacceptable. 3-1 and then 4-1: that looks like a trend too. Actually, it looks like a warning: that the next time it'll be 5-0. What'll we say then? It's not like there is a superlative form of unacceptable.
The BCCI can fix this. It can make sure that India never plays a five-Test series in England again. That would make it impossible to lose 5-0. We never used to play five Test matches on English tours in the old days. The Test and County Cricket Board (as was) would give us three Test in the early part of the summer when it was cold and wet and miserable and we did fine. When Wadekar, Kapil Dev and Rahul Dravid won in England, those were three-Test series. The English want us for five Tests because the more matches we play on tour, the more money the ECB makes. I don't mind them filling their boots, but hammering us in home conditions while minting money...it's like the wretched Raj again.
That's what I can't understand. I thought we ran world cricket now, what with the IPL and billions of pounds for television rights and countries dying to host us because wherever we go, trailing clouds of lucre follow. I thought we were the Raj, cricket's new imperialists with the bosses of the BCCI taking turns to play Queen Dictoria. So why doesn't the Board organize the Test cricket India plays so it plays to our strengths? Actually, strength. Our single strength is home advantage. Look at Kohli's captaincy record at home: we're like Bradman's Australians when we play in India. We killed the English the last time they toured. 4-0 it was. So why don't we offer the ECB a deal: we'll offset short three-Test tours of England with seven-Test series at home.
Will the ECB agree? Do cows graze? Of course it will; the BCCI just needs to show them the money. Ten years ago, a Texan billionaire Allen Stanford landed a helicopter on the turf at Lord's and showed the English an acrylic chest filled with ten million pounds in cash. In a heartbeat, the ECB agreed to play a ten-million pounds, winner-take-all Twenty20 match in Antigua where the said billionaire had a tiny, 6,000-seat stadium. It didn't happen - Stanford went bust - but it goes to show that the English will do anything for money.
So seven Tests in 2019, played when the summer's not quite done, in Test venues like Nagpur, Jaipur, Cuttack, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kanpur and Delhi. 7-0. At the end of it, wonder boy Sam Curran will be so worn out, he'll the only sub-five-foot fast bowler in the world. Stokes and Bairstow, the touring team's resident redheads, will be sunburnt to a crisp, Anderson will be bowling left-arm slows and Captain Root will need re-potting.
And then, mysteriously, there'll be half page obituary notices (above the fold) in every Indian newspaper. In deference to cricket's traditions they will (derivatively) read:
In Affectionate Remembrance
Who died at the Kotla
August 29, 2019,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing
friends and acquaintances
N.B. - Their bodies will be embalmed and stored in the
Lady Willingdon Pavilion.
They won't be literally dead, of course, just metaphorically, as part of a branding exercise. Because those obituaries won't be the end but a beginning. Like that first obituary in the Sporting Times in 1882, these notices will flag off cricket's fiercest 21st-century rivalry: India vs England, played over ten Tests every year, 3 over there, 7 over here, and the team that wins gets to keep the Bodies.
That's why this storied rivalry (which India, thanks to home advantage, will always win) shall resound in the game's annals and trip off the lips of cricket's public as...the Laashes!
Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in Delhi. His most recent book is 'Homeless on Google Earth' (Permanent Black, 2013).
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