I can see clearly now. Yes, under blue skies and yellow sun, the English batsmen will have their way with the Indian bowlers. Maybe a wicket or two will fall — Careless error? Sheer arrogance? — but the Indian bowlers will tire yet again as Prior/Broad/Bresnan launch the inevitable counterattack. India then bats and plays catch-up, but they can’t force a miracle. They either set a paltry target or lose by an innings. 3-0.
Oh, I know, I’m a pessimist. Any number of things — including the sudden outbreak of ‘riot-ia’ — could bend the arc of this Test match. (Secretly, I hope that Amit Mishra — long a cricket crush of mine — will upend this game and finally put Harbhajan to bed as India’s No. 1 spin bowler.) But no matter what happens, it’s clear that this English team has knocked the shine off India. To be sure, India’s dominance was never as clear-cut as the great Australian and West Indian teams; as its many detractors will say, India never won a series in South Africa or Australia. And even at home, it has been oddly complacent, drawing with South Africa and — were it not for a ninth-wicket partnership — nearly losing to Australia.
I suspect part of the reason behind India’s surprising lethargy lies with its players’ utter exhaustion. Did anyone else hear about that Praveen Kumar incident? Where he had to be restrained from walloping an annoying Indian fan with his cricket bat? For my part, I think failure might be a good thing for this team. A loss might come as a relief for Dhoni, who — incredibly — has yet to lose a Test series as captain. Once he has come to grips with a failure — especially one as glaring as this series — perhaps he won’t be as cautious anymore.
And maybe a whitewash will persuade the Indian selectors and fans that the time has come to say goodbye to the Fab Three. I don’t mean “right now”; there’s obviously that all-important tour against Australia. But it’s time for the youngsters to carry the weight and for Duncan Fletcher to launch his own regime. In time, the World Cup victory will be seen for what it was: the high-water mark for some of the greatest batsmen ever to play in the game. That they did not peak with an equally inspiring set of bowlers is lamentable, but there’s no need to whine about wasted resources. We enjoyed the run, and now…it’s back to the 1990s?