Is there any reason to watch the Oval Test? The specter of the whitewash is a faux-drama; even if England lose or draw this match, they will have made the same point a whitewash would have. That is: the English team is really, really good, especially at home, and India is exhausted.
I suspect the stakes for Dhoni are higher; if he can pull off a victory, he can at least swash away the clouds gathering around his captaincy. But that’s not exactly the best-case scenario for an Indian fan. If you’re playing the long-game and your vision and strategy extends beyond next week, then you should be lobbying for a 4-0 whitewash. The harder the drubbing, the more space to reformers have to make their case that radical change is needed.
Already, we are seeing signs of such a movement. Cricinfo reports that Anil Kumble — now head of the Karnataka Cricket Association — is lobbying for change:
ESPNcricinfo has learned that Anil Kumble, who attended the meeting as president of the Karnataka Cricket Association, strongly suggested the BCCI review the performance of the national side in England in a rational and clear-sighted manner, particularly when it came to issues of player burn-out and overuse. The quantity of cricket some of India’s players have been involved in since the start of the year has been pointed to by several analysts and ex-players as a possible reason for India’s dismal performance in England.
A 4-0 result will align the interests in a proper way: the players will be angry and press for change; the fans will be angry and press for change; the businessmen running the BCCI will fear for their product and accept change. Of course, it’s more likely that India will lose/win, the fans will move on as soon as the ODI series begins, and India will go on to play and win against the West Indies later this year. And on and on we go.