India deserve respect, don’t write them off: Dileep Premachandran

Having read some of the commentary about the Lord’s Test – in newspapers, on websites and on twitter feeds – I’m now convinced that Zaheer Khan is a lazy beer-swilling slob who sits on the couch all day, making an effort only when he needs to yell at the missus to bring him another packet of crisps while he’s watching the darts. Else, he must be a filet mignon gone wrong, given the frequent ‘undercooked’ references.

Zaheer certainly didn’t arrive at Lord’s as svelte as he had been back in 2007, when his bowling was the key factor in India’s series win. He did seem to be carrying some excess weight, but to equate that with laziness is … well, plain lazy. He was supposed to have played the three Tests in the Caribbean but had to pull out because of an injury to his right ankle. When a key weight-bearing joint is affected, your preparation suffers. You can’t jog or carry heavy weights. Nor can you even run in off a few steps to bowl some balls.

Playing him at Lord’s on the back of one warm-up game was always a risk. But this is not some slob on the couch we’re talking about. This is someone who has been central to India’s climb up the Test rankings. An XI without him is similar to a New Zealand side in the 1980s without Richard Hadlee. He’s that important. Yes, his preparation wasn’t ideal, but to question his attitude or commitment is to overlook key facts like the injury.

Tuesday’s papers also had me wondering if The Invincibles were back in town. On the back of one Test, in a series of four, England are apparently the best team in the world. It reminded me of a December evening in Centurion last year, when an overly smug Graeme Smith hinted that seam-friendly conditions in Durban would be more than enough for South Africa to seal the series deal.

In the week before the Boxing Day Test, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that Smith was Douglas Jardine, Jacques Kallis was Sir Garry Sobers and AB de Villiers was a right-handed version of Graeme Pollock. South Africa were the best team in the world, on the verge of confirming as much.

It took India less than 11 sessions to blow them out of the water, despite having lost the toss. Zaheer and Harbhajan Singh took six wickets apiece and Sreesanth took four. No South Africa batsman crossed 40 over the two innings.

England may yet win this series 4-0. They may yet dominate the Test arena for a decade. But till that happens, a sense of perspective might be useful. Not to mention a little respect.

Dileep Premachandran is an Indian journalist who’s writing a regular blog for The Cricketer throughout the Test series. Follow him on Twitter at @SpiceBoxofEarth

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36 Responses to India deserve respect, don’t write them off: Dileep Premachandran

  1. Crownish says:

    *Slow clap. I too was very angry at Zaheer on Day 5 as we lost wickets. The English press’s reactions are amusing but I’d like to hold comments for after the series is done.

  2. Raina Fc says:

    wait till the end of the series. they will know how India’s bouncebackability

  3. Johnny G says:

    WIth respect, and not saying that two wrongs make a right, but we’ve had to put up with far worse over recent months from the “EAST OR WEST INDIA DA BEST” brigade – one only needs to visit the Cricinfo Facebook page to see how quickly any subject degenrates. Seem to recall during the Ashes series reading numerous postings predicting England would be lucky to hold India to a 4-0 series victory such was the gulf between the two teams

    • Gurbir says:

      lol! completely agree with you! I am an Indian but i admit that facebook cricinfo comments by most of the ppl from indian subcontinent are very annoying!

    • WIndian says:

      The difference is that the Indian jingoism you refer to comes from 18-25 year old fans.

      Whereas much of the English commentary that has been quite antagonistic (to be frank) comes from supposedly mature and experienced cricket writers.

  4. dontjalous says:

    i’m sorry dileep, but zaheer does not look like a fast bowler.

    • ankita says:

      Yup and Broad doesn’t look like he should be allowed in an all mens’ team

      • subhash says:

        dontjalous , u dont look like a sensible or intelligent enough person to comment on this blog, a fast bowler might not necessarily look like a body builder.Indian bowlers are and have always been skilled bowlers not very fast

        why dont go eat some fish n chips and look at ur beer belly

      • HarryWilliams says:

        This was beautiful.

  5. Anand says:

    The hyperbole can simply be due to the fact that, like India, England have had a torrid time in cricket in the 90s until the past few years and would like some recognition. Similar to what people in India did when we started winning. The new millionaire’s umbrella…

  6. Abishek says:

    really who wrote this post on Zaheer must be insane, he is lazy..? Ohhh crap..! Millions of indian fans would not had enjoyd the sweet WC victory without him. Is Government of India mad to give away the prestigeous Arjuna Award for a lazy fat..? He can not cheat the dressing room with fake injury, can he cheat the Master Sachin with fake injury..? Please Media is a powerfull tool dont use it to publish crap like this.!

    • Underpaid Underling. says:

      @Abhishek: Mate, did you even read the article? I suggest you work on your comprehension skills.

      I quote “He was supposed to have played the three Tests in the Caribbean but had to pull out because of an injury to his right ankle. When a key weight-bearing joint is affected, your preparation suffers. You can’t jog or carry heavy weights. Nor can you even run in off a few steps to bowl some balls.”

  7. Brilliant, English media and commentards not only disrespecting Indian cricketers, they are also disrespecting South African cricketers. They are number 3 and will have to prove to be number 1. And they haven’t yet.

  8. Des Kehoe says:

    I agree about the hype about England and i’m saying that as an Englishman.We are playing some good stuff but David Lloyd has said we can win this 4-0! India are a good side and i fully expect them to come back making for a great series

  9. Rob F says:

    A few points to make – firstly it’s not only the English press making these comments – Indian press is similarly commenting, along with, shock horror, the Indian captain who certainly alluded to the fact that some of his players weren’t necessarily match ready.

    Secondly, by my reckoning, Zaheer is a professional sportsman. That means he earns his (very good) living playing sport. Now, in my book that means he should strive to be as ready as he can be for any occasion when he is required to work. I accept his injury restricted his ability to undertake impact practice, but there’s plenty of other things he might do to keep fit, swimming, weights, even sit ups! Muscular strains tend to occur due to under-preparation – simple. The fact that Zaheer seemed to be carrying a few extra pounds showed he was not ready and that is inexcusable.

    And for my final point, the headline refers to disrespect. Well, the people most guilty of disrespect are the BCCI in the way they have let down their team and cricketing public. And to prove this, you only have to look at Sehwag. Surely one of the greatest openers of all time, he was instructed to delay surgery so that he could play in the opening stages of the IPL, knowing this would prevent him playing in the first part of this series. This series, which will decide who the number one Test team in the world is. If your priority is 20/20, fine then tell us and your public and see what reaction you get. If it’s Test (IMHO the ultimate form of the game) then demonstrate it in actions. Prepare properly for the series (not one game in Taunton).

    If you sense I’m angry about this, you’re right. I want to see the best players in the world playing in the greatest arenas, 100% fit and raring to go. Not turning up half fit, underprepared and clearly knackered. We’ve seen too much of that for too long in cricket. Whoever wins this series will be the best test team in the world and if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on England, not because they’re the better team, but because their Board and their players want it more.

    • Mani Thangadurai says:

      Brilliantly said, sir! Brilliantly said indeed! I think the Indians should take a leaf out of Kevin Pietersen’s book on how to remain slim and trim, and look like a proper athlete!

      And while I disapprove of the hyping of England by the British media, I feel that any contempt shown towards India at the moment is well deserved given their own attitude towards the game and this series of late.

      And Dileep, it’s not for nothing that people say ‘better to have a donkey who will go the distance than a thoroughbred horse who will break down’. If there were lingering doubts about Zaheer Khan’s fitness and ability to last for five days without breaking down the management had no right to pick him. I would rather have seen Munaf Patel in the playing XI, for he at least was playing in the West Indies and had some action under his belt. Also, someone mentioned Rudra Pratap Singh – I find it bizarre that with a plethora of left-arm seamers in their ranks India didn’t pick more than one, given how much the likes of Singh, Ashish Nehra and Irfan Pathan would have relished bowling in England!

      • WIndian says:

        “Muscular strains tend to occur due to under-preparation – simple.”

        Lots of valid points, but not the above.

        Hamstring strains can occur at any time… in your first over of the season or your 14th over in a Test match (as with Zaheer), or even well into the season. Shaun Marsh is a classic example – and he’s an Aussie (who stress fitness training even more). And look at Tremlett, who has a niggle too in the same area. Is Tremlett udercooked too?

        Nah. Zaheer and India were unlucky with that injury. (But I’m not attributing the Indian loss completely to that. England bowled well, and the Indian batsmen needed to do a better job to save the game)

        • Rob F says:

          True, they can occur at any time, but are much more likely to occur due to under-preparation. The muscle is a collection of fibres, a bit like elastic. Take a rubber band that hasn’t been used for a bit and stretch it – it will snap. However, warm it up for a bit and give it some flex and you’ll get longer better usage. Some people are more prone than others, but my point is that Zaheer was more likely to have got injured because of his lack of preparation. The article suggested his lack of preparation was due to his previous injury, which is wrong.

  10. Ram says:

    Ha! Filet Mignon…
    Only Zaheer can prove everyone wrong. Hopefully he’ll come and bowl 50 overs apiece in the final 2 games.

  11. Kishore Sharma says:

    I completely disagree that Zaheer is as important to this Indian team as Hadlee was to New Zealand during the 1980s. First, he is not the same class as Hadlee. Second, bowlers like Ishant Sharma, Harbhajan and Sreesanth are far better that Sneddan et al. In fact, after Zaheer dropped out of India’s tour to Australia in 2007/2008, his spot was comfortably filled by RP Singh etc. Wonder where RP Singh is now?

  12. Olly Samways says:

    “This is someone who has been central to India’s climb up the Test rankings. An XI without him is similar to a New Zealand side in the 1980s without Richard Hadlee. He’s that important.”

    Surely a test playing nation ranked number 1 would have strength in depth? The author’s anger would be better directed at the Indian selectors for picking an unfit player. That really highlights the main difference between the two teams, which is the professionalism behind the scenes. England are run by the team manager. India are run by suits with wads of cash.

  13. Karan Malhotra says:

    An ankle injury shouldn’t stop one from getting on the gym bike or swimming. Plenty of professional athletes come back from ankle injuries by staying in shape by biking & swimming. Zaheer Khan was simply lazy for having gained a solid beer belly. Completely unprofessional on Zaheer’s part and he deserves to be sacked for the rest of the series until he’s fit again.

  14. anish says:

    “better to have a donkey who will go the distance than a thoroughbred horse who will break down”- whoever said that never entered a derby, never took a chance and will never reap those rewards. Harbhajan in 01, laxman in 01, saurav in 96 – all thoroughbreds. I hope this fires up Zak like the the jelly bean incident.
    Pride cometh before a fall so beware english fans!! I hope we get a cracker of a series and this BS from the English press is sure to create some needle.

    • Mani Thangadurai says:

      Test cricket is NOT a sprint, it is a marathon. And ultimately it’s the fittest and more enduring who will go the distance. That is my point!

  15. Pingback: Indian Fans Should Stop Whining About English Hyperbole | Kridaya Cricket Blog

  16. Off_Spinner says:

    Dear Dileep, no one has written off India. I am sure if you have a look at the newspapers again, you will be able to find Englishmen expecting India to hit back hard. However, the reason everyone wants this to be a 4-0 whitewash is because England have truly been the best team over the last 1 and a half years. Citing the Durban test for India will not convince us because that test was as shoddy as the infamous Sydney test in terms of umpiring. SA would have won that series under normal circumstances. In fact, the umpires almost derailed the Lord’s test as well! If observed closely, it would be found that over the last 2 years, the only creditable series India have won against a good side were against an injury-struck 2nd string Australia and a decently strong SL both at home. And even despite that, people all over the world are still crediting India and praising them. So don’t worry about people writing them off.

    • WIndian says:

      Mate, you have so many facts wrong, I don’t know where to start.

      1. The Sydney Test had at least 6 terrible calls against India. It started on Day 1, when Symonds got a massive knick behind (at ~130/5), which Bucknor missed god-knows-how. And ended on Day 5 when Dravid was given caught behind to a phantom nick off Symonds. Despite all that, Australia managed a win only in the dying minutes of the game.
      2. In contrast, at Durban there were only 2 mistakes made. AB’s lbw to Bhajji (hawkeye had it going over) in the 2nd inngs and Zak’s lbw to Steyn (the umpire said inside edge). That’s hardly the same as Sydney. And we all know what can happen to SA when chasing in a tight game. (And Durban was a bowler’s track all through the Test)
      3. At the Lord’s Test, 2 lbws went India’s way on Day 5. But what about Broad escaping a plumb lbw to Bhajji on Day 4 half-way thru his innings? And KP getting a marginal call in his favour on 49? (There are many including Boycott, Booth and a few commentators on TMS who thought it should have been out). You can’t cite only the ones that went against England if you want to be fair.
      4. As for results. India got a 1-1 in SA, so did England; the Test that India did lose saw Zaheer out, but SA at full strength. India tied with SA 1-1 in India; again, the Test that India lost did not feature Dravid or Laxman. India got a 1-1 in SL (with Murali for 1 Test and Malinga for 2); let’s see how England do. England beat Australia, but they were No. 5 by then, confused and injury-affected (eg. Ponting and Bollinger). India tour Aus later, but for now they have a 2-0 win in 2010 and 2-0 win in 2008. Dhoni has only lost 4 Tests and won 15. So I don’t know how you claim England have had more creditable wins. To use your criterion, the win at Lord’s was not too special either as it was achieved against 10 men (with Gambhir and Tendulkar less than 100%).
      5. There are 3 very good and evenly matched teams in India, England and South Africa. None of them are dominant. But that is no ground for belittling 1 and eulogizing the other.

      • Off_Spinner says:

        Ok, let’s go by it one-by-one.

        1) Mistakes made in the Sydney test:
        i) Symonds caught-behind not given
        ii) Symonds stumping not given by 3rd umpire
        iii) Ponting caught behind down the legside not given
        iv) Dravid given caught-behind while leaving the ball.
        I won’t count Ponting claiming Ganguly’s catch because such incidents have happened before and quite often. Ganguly claiming Gilchrist in the WC’03 final (not given though), Dhoni claiming KP (was given), Sachin refusing Boucher took a clean catch in the same series (not given). Other 50-50 incidents in the match won’t count obviously.

        2) Mistakes in Durban:
        i) Zaheer not given LBW
        ii) AB given LBW while quite long forward
        iii) Boucher given LBW to a ball which was not in the periphery of the stumps.
        Other 50-50 decisions are not counted as similar for the Sydney test. Umpire Steve Davis was photographed and rumored to be drunk though nothing conclusive was made about it. Just 1 decision less than Sydney and that’s why I used the phrase “as shoddy as” in my comment.

        3) My comment does not deny Broad’s LBW anywhere. KP (while I personally felt he was out) was still a 50-50 case so I don’t expect it to be used as a strong case.

        4) Ind and Eng’s record are all same except for against Aus. And even though Aus were no.5 in the Ashes, it was a fitter side than that which toured India. Aus played the Ashes without a lead spinner. Bollinger was not a key member of the squad so that doesn’t count. Ponting’s form was low so it didn’t make a difference there when Usie stepped in. However in Ind, they lost Bollinger in the 1st test *during the match*. Katich played with a broken thumb. Peter George (who isn’t even South Aust’s key bowler) had to be called up for the pace attack. And my comment never stated the win at Lord’s being special. What would be special was when Eng won at Cardiff with Anderson injured during the match and in Adelaide with Broad injured during the match.

        5) I did not “belittle” any one team in my comment. I do believe India have become a stronger side over the last few years. Especially at home. I believe similarly to you that these 3 teams are the top 3 currently. It is just my personal opinion that SA and Eng are joint top and then India because of the conditions they play in for most of the year. It is just an opinion nevertheless and I don’t see why I shouldn’t express them when countless others express theirs?

        • WIndian says:

          Thanks for the detailed reply. I commend your effort. But you’ve missed some points, which I’ll list:
          1. Sydney Test – There were at least 3 other mistakes you haven’t cited (including Ganguly’s):
          a) Starting with Ganguly – established principle is if neither umpire can judge, you go to the 3rd umpire. Here, Benson gave him out after asking Ponting who was next to Clarke(the actual catcher)! Who made Ponting the 4th umpire?? It should have gone upstairs, and the inconclusive replay would have saved him (as usually happens). [Btw, on Sachin - Boucher at Capetown -- Ian Gould had said not out, and ultra-slow-mo replays did show it bounced just before Boucher. Clear cut not out, right decision made]
          b) Bucknor did not even refer another stumping of Symonds off Bhajji in the 1st inng. Side-view inconclusive, but stump cam showed it was out.
          c) Lee bowled Jaffer off a front-foot no-ball (1st inng I think); not called by Benson.
          This is all that I clearly recall. (There used to be a video montage from Star online… can’t find it at present)
          2. At Durban – You’re right about the Boucher lbw to Zaheer (missing off). I had missed that. But still nowhere near Sydney. Allegations about Davis drinking heavily at a bar, as per an unnamed local paper, were just that, and there was no complaint from the SA camp. Anyway, the difference at Durban was it was a bowler’s delight and unplayable balls were aplenty (hence all over in less than 4 days); Sydney was a true track and that made Symonds’ reprieves in the 1st inng tougher on the bowlers; and the Dravid – Ganguly decisions critical (they could have drawn the game).
          3. My point remains – the Lord’s Test had some umpiring luck for England too (not just one-way traffic in favour of India).
          4. On India’s record vs Australia – we’ve beaten them at Perth (2008) when they were #1, which this England side couldn’t. We beat them 2-0 in 2008 when they were #1, before the 2-0 in 2010. Sure, Bollinger got injured mid-way through Day 5; but Ishant was injured on Day 1 (back spasm) and bowled only 11 overs out of 150 (1st inng)! 2nd match, Oz had a new bowler George; we didn’t have Laxman or Gambhir (and played Pujara & Murali). The Ashes – Katich played injured too; Ponting’s injury at Perth affected the last 2 matches and upset Oz further; Bollinger was relevant as he was Australia’s best Test bowler in the 12 months prior to the Ashes (avg of ~24 in that period); and the Oz selections in general were shockingly muddled. So 3-1 was a terrific result, but we’ve beaten them very well ourselves since 2008. And btw, in the noughties (2001-2010), we’re the only team to have more wins than losses to Australia. (9 wins to 6 losses)
          5. By discrediting Indian wins, you did in fact belittle India’s uptrend in Tests. I wouldn’t mind you saying England are better than India at present, in your opinion; but not by belittling Indian wins.
          6. Also, on overseas wins, note that in the last 5 years, India has Test match wins at Jamaica (2006, 2011), Jo’burg (2007), Perth (2008), and Colombo (2010). Venues where England don’t have any wins (in fact, losses) in the same period. (And the series in SL in 2010, which we drew 1-1, was largely without Bhajji and Zaheer; and both were absent in the Colombo win. And you would know how tough SL are in SL.)

          • Off_Spinner says:

            I won’t address the latter points now since they are all just individual opinions. Anyway I am an Indian as well so I don’t see why I should discredit them. Anyway, I said the Durban test was “as shoddy as”. Of course, there is no doubt that the Sydney test was worse. Both tests deserved to end in draws and decisions on the final day were critical in both results – not just Sydney.

            As for the Symonds stumping you mentioned, that was the only stumping called for and not given by the 3rd umpire and I counted it already. Jaffer being bowled off a no-ball was in the preceding MCG test where India folded up anyway. And I don’t believe in counting no-balls because that happens in almost every match and every team in history has had such incidents. Modern umpires are not even strict with the heel-on-the-line rule! As for the Ganguly catch, though it was an incorrect decision, it was not due to technology and that’s why I didn’t count it. Ganguly himself has claimed such catches twice in his career. I am an advocate of the DRS and that’s why I look at decisions influenced by technology. As for the Tendulkar-Boucher incident, one can look it up on Youtube and it is obvious that it was much more clearer than the Pietersen incident we are talking about. There is always an illusional dip to the ball before it hits the hands and if one says KP was out, then Sachin was out as well because this catch was less doubtful!

            That said, it was visible yesterday how Harbhajan smashed the ball and was given LBW during the hat-trick. Surely, the full proper DRS should be used in view of such things. Even if inaccurate, they are far better than an average umpire. (That said, I personally have seen the Hot Spot is prone to more error than the Hawk-Eye!) (I have umpired at club level and I respect the tough job they have to do but still tech is better!) (Of course, I don’t really feel for Harbhajan since his own hat-trick involved Gilchrist smashing the ball and given LBW as well.) I am not in favour of series being decided by such farcical incidents. India and England are well-matched and even though I personally believe Eng to be slightly ahead, I don’t want such incidents shouldn’t pop in and hurt the results. If India win (and they can), I would like it to happen without help from umpiring. I’m not against them or discrediting them when they play fair.

  17. Sankar Ramamurthy says:

    The author conveniently glosses over how Zaheer sustained his knee-injury: by playing the IPL. That’s where the blame lies. Nothing wrong with the criticism. Certainly not over the top. Dileep doesn’t say why Zaheer did not bowl in the second innings of the warm up match against Somerset.

  18. Ajit Gupta says:

    A very sensible, balanced piece….Yes, the English are on the rise….yes they are contenders for #1…but do the English analysts truly belive that this English team can subdue either India or SriLanka in the subcontinent?
    Like Dileep says, India may still go down 4-0 in this series, but based on their recent performances, particularly against South Africa, it would be foolhardy to count them out.

  19. Hemant says:

    +1. Having been at Lord’s for day 1 and 4, one thing I can say for sure is that Indian did not lose the test when Zaheer pulled out due to injury- it would have been very difficult to win from there, but they had resources to draw. India lost the test (no, not just win, but draw was not an option) when Ishant didn’t bowl after lunch. The Lord’s was stunned at that decision, and if Ishant made that decision- I won’t like to have him on my team; and if Dhoni/Fletcher made that decision, they should be banned for a test (BTW, wonder what Fletcher’s been doing- first no chase in WI, then no Ishant at Lord’s!)

  20. Andrew R says:

    Perhaps Dileep is missing the point here. I believe the press criticism is directed more at Duncan Fletcher than the Indian team or indeed Zaheer Khan. Perhaps the Indian fans should look at Fletcher’s final tour as England coach to Australia in 2006/7. England were a shambles due to poor preparation and choosing the wrong captain, both down to Fletcher. England probably would have lost but in not such a humiliating fashion. For all the good he did for the England team the press and fans still remember his last ashes series and the subsequent world cup where England were equally as bad. India wouldn’t be receiving half of this bad press if Fletcher wasn’t the coach.

  21. Ryan says:

    “In the week before the Boxing Day Test, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that Smith was Douglas Jardine, Jacques Kallis was Sir Garry Sobers and AB de Villiers was a right-handed version of Graeme Pollock.”

    I think this is a bit unfair on Jacques Kallis.