Before this series began, a 4-0 drubbing was being predicted for England based on their disastrous showing against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in January-February. But as the IPL hit fever pitch in India, the small detail of a vastly improved performance against Sri Lanka in their subsequent tour somehow got forgotten.
Coincidence? Perhaps. Fact is England had started already talking and preparing about India a long time back."It’s always a shame when you’ve got to be handed a few defeats to make sure you really do look at it. We’re excited. India’s still a long way off, but we’ve got some good lessons we can put in the bank," Andrew Strauss, then England captain, was quoted as saying after England won the Colombo Test, their first after four straight losses, in early April.
Fast bowler Steven Finn agreed India was too big a series for them. “India is a team full of world class players with a formidable record in their own backyard. Yes, the tour has obviously been in the back of our minds,” said Finn here on Monday.
To a large extent, their preparation was triggered by England’s extraordinary collapse against Pakistan where their batting failed to make much sense of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman’s spin.
NOT GIVING UP
“We tried to win the series against Pakistan but we didn’t quite get there,” said Finn, back in contention after missing the first two Tests due to injury. England’s only positive in that series was the performance of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann (see box).
“And then in Sri Lanka, we were always trying to build up a set of skills that would aid us in the subcontinent,” said Finn. The improvement was distinct. Not only did Swann get better returns, he did it against the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Tillekaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara — some of the best players of spin.
It however took a united bowling and batting effort for England to finally make their presence felt. England won that Test in Colombo to square the two-match series 1-1.
England returned home and lost 0-2 to South Africa with Strauss retiring subsequently but the real cause wasn’t lost. To ensure their spinners continue being effective, the England board extended spin-bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed’s contract till 2014 at the end of July.
And from working as a part-timer, former skipper and opener Graham Gooch became a fulltime batting coach just before the Sri Lanka tour.
“We realised that to be the No.1 team again and to be a world class team, we have to win in these sorts of conditions. There we learnt a few lessons,” said Finn. Team India might be at a loss of words to describe what hit them in that evening session in Mumbai, but England know it was an outcome they had been long preparing for.