That sounds like the score line (until the 44th minute) in the football match between Germany and the Allies (POWs of World War 2) in the 1981 movie Escape to Victory. However, it isn’t what I am going to talk about. Yes, you know it. 4-0 is the final score line between the recently concluded cricket test series between England and India, where England won the four match test series Four-Nil. Let me make it very clear that the comparison ends with the score line and the fact that India was effectively a 10 men squad (like the Allies) for most part of the series. I am not saying that the English are like WW2 Germans mind you. England played with great attitude and the series was played in good spirits overall. Unfortunately it wasn’t an eight match test series for India to have a chance to level it. I don’t think India would have come back even if it were a 16 match test series. India might have lost the England series when they drew the third test match against West Indies, which they played before they arrived in England.
I am not going to dissect either India’s slide from the top or the overall mismanagement of the team by the BCCI. I don’t think India were the top test side in the first place. Let the cricket experts debate that. I will just focus on the demoralizing effect of a white-wash (this was indeed a white wash, because it was England who did it!). The margins of India’s defeats were astonishing. When the series began around four weeks ago the expectations were really high and rightly so. We expected a close contest between bat and ball and many believed it could be 2-1 series either way. Nothing of that sort happened rather it took four weeks of carnage for India to lose four test matches. As a result, the already depleted Indian test fan base may have depleted further towards obscurity. The belief of an average Indian cricket fan in test match cricket has taken a beating.
The advent of IPL, India’s victory in the T-20 and ODI world cups have already made a huge impact on the new generation of cricket fans in India. I don’t want to talk about their impact on the aspirations of upcoming cricketers (it makes me sick). Test matches have increasingly got decreasing attention from Indian public. The cricket stadia are usually half empty for test matches (even on weekends) and the viewership ratings (reported) are not promising either. When a test series between England and India with such great (potential) significance becomes as distressingly one-sided as it turned out to be, it would be fair if many 12 to 18 year old Indians said ‘it is a depressingly boring sport’. Those who still love test cricket (many people from my father’s generation and a few from my generation) also went through tremendous agony as the series progressed. I have to acknowledge the pain of the Indian cricketers who were on that tour. I am sure they were the most disappointed of all. However, it appears that many players don’t realize an important responsibility of an India test cap holder. They may be dropped, rested or ultimately retire from the game someday but they always will have to make sure that cricket fans do not retire from the game ever.
If India wins a test series in the near future against any side, then it might make many Indians ignore the misfortunes of this tour (selective forgetfulness). But, a four-nil score line on any day against any opposition would have taken its toll on the fan psyche. It is unbelievable. Those who understand Indian cricket will be very worried.