watch youngsters bowl during a visit to Future Hope School on October 27, 2011 in Kolkata, India. The England cricket team visited the charity-run school, which helps provide a better life for the street children of Kolkata.
England will not have to play another game of cricket this year – for which they are, no doubt, truly grateful. They look as if they have had enough. Just about everyone on the planet is mightily intrigued by the mysteries of India – except perhaps our cricketers.
England's tour of India, which finished on Saturday, reminded me of my first and only trip to the Taj Mahal, which took place on the 1984‑85 expedition. The entire party got up at 4.30am in order to see the great mausoleum at sunrise, except Mike Gatting, who explained: "I've seen it before." These past four weeks those England players who had seen it all before in India seemed to exhibit little enthusiasm for another visit to the country so soon after the previous one – at least when 50-over cricket was on the agenda.
Now they can all rest up until the new year. We have reached a conclusion of sorts, and at the end of anything nowadays there have to be some awards. So we can dish a few out.Most improved ODI cricketer: Andrew Strauss. You are always better in retirement. Forget that there were always queries about his right to be in the team, Strauss it was who played the spinners so deftly when England met India in Bangalore during the World Cup. Apparently Andy Flower wanted him to continue for another year, but Strauss, with indisputable logic, thought otherwise.
Most indispensable ODI batsman: Eoin Morgan. His reputation was high before the Indian tour; it has sky-rocketed in the past three weeks. Now he is being touted as captain for all forms of limited-over cricket. The longer he is injured the more imminent his appointment appears to be.
Most lethal ODI bowler: Stuart Broad. (See above on the joys of being absent). This was a very good tour to miss.Most improved international cricket coach: Duncan Fletcher. Well, he was obviously crap in England last summer, but now he is a bit of a wizard again.Notwithstanding Saturday's Twenty20 victory, the tour to India was a chastening experience. Flower has drawn comparison with the Test defeat in Jamaica in 2009 when England were bowled out for 51, partly because the shock waves that performance provoked were ultimately so productive.
Now we seek some sort of perspective. English cricket is not suddenly a shambles. Nor is it quite so potent as the euphoria of 2011 – from the triumph of an Ashes victory in
Sydney to the routing of India in the home Test series – led some to believe. Especially when they are using white balls. In India, only one player categorically advanced during the ODIs and that was the one who was hungry for some cricket, Steven Finn. Otherwise, Samit Patel and Jonathan Trott just about ended in credit. None of the others did.
It may be that the selectors were too emboldened by the successes of 2011. They were in a mood to take a punt (always beware selectors with a yearning to pluck rabbits from hats). So it was that they sent out Scott Borthwick and Stuart Meaker. Of course, they have to experiment some time and glean new evidence but whether an away one‑day series against India, arguably the toughest assignment on the international circuit, is the place to do that is debatable.
In the nearest equivalent that the English domestic game offers to ODI cricket – the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition (I know, it's not that near) – Borthwick played eight games for Durham and took six wickets in 2011. Meaker played three games for Surrey and captured four wickets. In the Lord's final in September, which was played on a low-bouncing, Indian-style pitch, Surrey opted not to pick Meaker. Yet this pair were part of England's 15 in India.Our selectors are usually so pragmatic. and, recently at least, so youthful. Incidentally, Australia have just appointed John Inverarity, 67, as their full-time national selector. In other circumstances there might be scope to mock but for the fact that I know that Inverarity's knowledge and passion for the game is exceeded by no one. Moreover he is not the sort of man to be locked in his own era. He will be good.Of course, England's torment was not the fault of the peripheral selections for the tour. The batsmen could not bat effectively against spin on turning tracks, more, I suspect, through tired minds than too many technical deficiencies. Against competent spinners in these conditions, batsmen need their wits to be razor sharp in assessing the risks. They must sometimes try to manipulate the ball rather than massacre it. They must be able to think on their feet. By the end of the ODI series they could still run – they can always do that – but they could not think.