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England & Greece, suffering from austerity

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Ashes_England_Australia_cricketAusterity, as I know it, is an attempt at making progress with a firm grip on the handbrakes. It might be the most hated word across Europe. The Greeks abhor the very idea it proposes, and yet, are saddled with the prospect of the suffering that it entails. Across the continent, dissenting voices have been raised but it only takes a proverbial twist of the fingers to turn down the volume. Sadly there exist, quite simply, more powerful and more persuasive agents who are deeply infatuated by its charms than a million votes against it.

The referendum brought with it a temporary sense of euphoria before the 'troika', Merkel's hand placed well over it, moved swiftly to discipline the errant children of the house, so to speak. It may come across as absurd, insensitive almost, to compare England's meek surrender at Lords to the ongoing crisis at Greece. One will inevitably cripple a country, while the other is 'a kick to the teeth' to about eleven odd men. But the parallels are hard to ignore.

At Cardiff, and for a month preceding the test, England have been revolting against the austere cricket one tends to associate with them. The injection of youth and their vigour sparked a change in attitude which is more in keeping with the evolving nature of the game. Their thumping win was as resounding a verdict as the referendum against the Euro autocracy. The status quo had been upset, and some were having none of it.

 

The lesser 'troika' of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Mick Hunt the Lords curator, and Johnson's low arm perilously hovering above their heads, conspired to produce a pitch so devoid of anything, it could have passed as a dissertation on nihilism. The slowness of the surface was meant to nullify the Australian bowlers, but instead it sucked the life out of their own, especially Anderson's.

The Cardiff pitch, although slow, offered sideways movement, an entity that Broad and Anderson revel in. Anderson is, without a doubt, one of the finest bowlers in English conditions, and sideways movement is an English cricket institution. At Lords, Anderson, flustered by the lack of it, seemed to get dragged down the slope, and was fortunate not to be barred from bowling itself. His wicketless shift was a protestation against the prevailing conditions. The Australians, on the contrary, bowled full and fast, quicker through the air, and systematically eviscerated the English batsmen. Australia's two left armers, Johnson and Starc, aided by the slope, and the natural and artificial angles they created, took the pitch completely out of the equation. At 30-4 on Day 2 and then on 64-5 on Day 4, England had effectively surrendered, adopting the garb of Tspiras in the process. The only resistance, offered by the obdurate Cook and the buccaneering Stokes in the first innings, is now an afterthought.

There will be much deliberation as to the composition of the team and the batting order therein, with Bairstow replacing Ballance, and Bell horribly out of form, but the English management will do well to adhere to the blueprint of bold cricket laid out by Brave New England, and not box them into a corner, forcing them to revisit their austere past.  

Unlike the Greeks, English cricket is not in a state of terminal decline; the case is the opposite, in fact, and the remedy is not as polarising. A livelier pitch, with more movement at Edgbaston, will not just serve as a statement of intent from the English, but will also reflect a sign of greater faith in their own strengths, than that of Australia's, from the top brass. Hopefully, the other ECB do not have (or need) Merkel or Schauble on speed dial.



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