Heckled by the Pakistan spinners, the Englishmen could do no right against Pakistan in the UAE. They couldn’t clone a Saeed Ajmal for a payback. But they picked up small nuggets of wisdom on the way.
Paul Collingwood has revealed how England finally had their eureka moment in the UAE. Ajmal was inscrutable but there was something about Pakistan’s other spinner, Abdur Rehman, which intrigued them.
With spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed in their ranks, England realised that Rehman’s pace was just the right one on subcontinental tracks. In sport, defeat is often a welcome instructor, ever opening the faculties to new vistas of learning. England were forced to start afresh. South Africa had usurped the Test throne which, until recently, was theirs. England began by being honest about their weaknesses.
The first thing, said Alastair Cook, was the realisation that they couldn’t counter quality spin. “We had to look at our technique against spin and work out a method which suited each of us individually. We worked our socks off trying to improve our technique. Although we didn’t get immediate results, we are now starting to,” said Cook.
It was obvious that England have been working on the little details. Here, they judged the length of the spinners better and read the turn from the hand as well as off the wicket.
Also, unlike in the UAE, the sword of the Decision Review System (DRS) wasn’t hanging over their heads. Against Pakistan, England would pad up to deliveries they thought they would get away with. Pakistan won a significant number of referrals. As a consequence, the England batsmen just messed up their footwork. A pointer for the Indian cricket board perhaps?
More than the technical virtuosity, England have looked the more determined and hungry side. After their resounding win at the Wankhede, the visitors reached Kolkata earlier even as some of India’s seniors went for a wedding of a former colleague.
In the meantime, let’s spare a thought for the man who has made the most significant difference to the tourists. What makes Cook a perfectionist? We hear that during his school days, Cook was trained to nearly 25 hours of singing for a choir and he was never allowed to make an error. While batting, he draws his energies from an intense psychological will that’s infectious to the team.
Herein, England have stolen a march over their counterparts. At times, MS Dhoni’s men do give the impression that they are immune to losses. Such a defeatist attitude was seen in Indian cricket in the 1990s. Maybe, like England, India too must slide further for a regeneration.