With the Kolkata win England has given itself the best possible chance to win a series in India after 28 years, and possibly only the fourth occasion in the history (since India’s independence). Since 2000 India has lost a series at home only twice, and last instance when it received successive drubbings at home was 12 years ago. These are some of the huge records that this Alastair Cook-led side has broken or on the verge of it. There are obvious reasons to see this in light with the series of 1984 which had another left-hander skipper for England and here is a comparative account.
While I can’t speak for the performances in that (1984-85 series) series, the statistics bear a striking similarity. India won the first test and the lost the second equally comprehensively. The third couldn’t produce a result and the fourth saw England winning handsomely to take a 2-1 lead. India pushed hard for a win in the last test but couldn’t level the score-line. I needn’t elaborate why this sequence has a parallel to the current series.
England had a debutant opener for the 1984-85 series -Tim Robinson, who provided that fresh outlook to the batting and was the second highest run-getter for the series. England’s prolific number three Mike Gatting too had an outstanding series and ended up with an average of 95.83 with two hundreds in 9 innings. Alastair Cook has been England’s Gatting this time around with 548 runs at 109.60 in 6 innings and Pietersen as the X-factor with 259 with a strike rate of 70.38. India’s highest run-getter was a debutant, number 3 batsman - Mohammad Azharrudin with 3 tons in 5 innings at an exceptional average of 109.75. Cheteshwar Pujara isn’t too old in the test arena and has been India’s best batsmen thus far with 412 runs at an average of 103.00. India’s all-rounder - Ravi Shastri was India’s third best batsman and Ashwin too has the third best tally for India in these 3 tests.
The top 5 bowlers list, back then, had an Indian spinner leading those names - L. Sivaramakrishnan and four Englishmen. In this series thus far Ojha has the highest number of wickets and Ashwin’s name features at the 4th position, with Swann (2nd), Panesar (3rd) and Anderson (5th) rounding off the list. The English spinners - Edmonds & Pocock, had 27 wickets between them with very good support from the quickies. Monty & Swann have picked 33 wickets thus far, but it has been likes of Anderson & Finn who have penetrated at crucial moments in this series. England was dismissed for 195 in the first innings of the series at Mumbai, 1984 and had Gatting score a hundred in the second innings (in a losing cause) which propelled the rest of the batting unit. England managed to score 191 in the first innings at Ahmedabad last month and eventually lost the match; but it was Cook’s 176 that gave the English batting hope and confidence going into the second test.
India's strength at home has a traditional method of operation - the strong batting piles up runs and then the rest is taken care by the scoreboard pressure and opposition’s lack of ability to face spin on slow tracks. In both the games that the Gower-led side won, the English bowlers skittled India for fewer than 300 and accumulated runs. This series the Panesar-led bowling attack has managed to bowl India out for less than 300 at Mumbai & Kolkata and Cook & co. have amassed runs at a fair click to enforce a result. In either case the English team didn’t bank upon a couple of individuals alone, but had a hero popping up at the right moment. Neil Foster had a 6-for in the 4th test to restrict India to 272 on the first day and followed it with a 5-for in the second innings; Graeme Fowler scored a double ton in the same game to help England notch up 652. Anderson’s exceptional spell on the first day of the Kolkata test followed by Trott & Compton’s effective contributions strengthened England’s dominance over the test match.
It is indeed very intriguing to find such statistical and sequential similarities to the two tours and also the fact that both the tours have followed a year later than India’s ODI world cup win! England can complete the result resemblance at Nagpur or better it. Indian fans though would be hoping for the similarities to end right here and the series to end with equal number of wins!