The key to success is failure
‘Merlyn’ is not the girl next door. She is not even a girl. ‘It’ is a state-of-the-art spin bowling machine that delivers “programmable, spinning balls, of every imaginable variety”.
So what does the 12-foot equipment have to do with England and their inability to counter quality spin bowling? ‘Merlyn’ is a product of 15 years of development work, supervised by engineer Henry Pryor, and successfully aided England’s historic Ashes victory in 2005. And every county, excellence centre and academy in England has one.
Reams have been written on the Englishmen’s susceptibility to deliver on turning tracks. But truth is you tend to sympathise with them because, unlike generations of Indian batsmen whose weakness against pace bowling has been no less embarrassing, the Englishmen never ever stop trying. Sample this: counties like Essex and Middlesex have been sending youngsters to these shores for nearly 10 years now. And now even the ECB is sending its teams. Did you know that Andrew Strauss first came to India in 2003, three years before he scored a match-winning hundred at the Wankhede and five years before his twin tons in Chennai? Alastair Cook, Eoin Morgan, Graeme Swann and Ravi Bopara were part of the famous batch of 2005. What’s more, another bunch of England Lions (their ‘A’ side) will be here soon.
The Global Cricket School, founded by “SoBo cricket nut” Sachin Bajaj, facilitates these tours. The GCS, which according to the 41-year-old former club cricketer was born on the fabled lawns of the aristocratic Cricket Club of India in 2001, enabled teams from Middlesex and Essex undertake a tour of India in early 2003. “Every batch that comes here plays matches in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Chandigarh and even Chennai for about three weeks. The English come here to learn the art of playing spin. They also hire the services of former India cricketers like Kiran More, Narendra Hirwani and Hrishikesh Kanitkar,” says Bajaj.
“When it comes to talent and money, India are No 1. But when you talk about foresight to invest...” Bajaj is dead right. England, perhaps, are better players of spin than Indians are of fast bowling. And you’ve got to respect their intent to improve.