Clive Lloyd changed Test cricket back in the 1970s with his decision to play four fast bowlers in the West Indies team. That was a significant moment in the game’s history.
The West Indies emerged as the world’s most entertaining, and feared, cricket team. Imagine the plight of the batters facing Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner one after another.
The West Indies’ domination was complete. It won successive World Cups, and triumphed in most of its Test series; the odd ones were drawn.
Few decisions, since Lloyd’s, have impacted Test cricket as the one that Rob Key took a couple of years ago as the managing director of England men’s cricket. He made Brendon McCullum coach of England’s Test team.
Though he had coached white-ball teams, including Kolkata Knight Riders, McCullum had never trained a Test team. And it was at a very difficult time for England that he assumed charge: England was beaten in its last four series, among them a 4-0 thrashing by Australia. Captain Joe Root and coach Chris Silverwood had resigned.
Ben Stokes took over from Root and the all-rounder would form with McCullum one of cricket’s greatest captain-coach partnerships.
What McCullum conceives, Stokes executes. Their latest success came here on Sunday, as England defeated India in the first Test after conceding a lead of 190. Remember, beating India in India has, for years, been arguably the hardest thing to do in Test cricket.
Stokes termed it England’s best win since he became the skipper. That is a bit like saying Vertigo is Alfred Hitchcock’s best film, Hamlet is William Shakespeare’s best play, or Roja is A.R. Rahman’s best album. Those three geniuses have several other great works to their credit.
The victory against India may be the best — given the conditions and the situation of the match (England trailing by 27 runs with only five wickets in hand in the second innings at one stage) — but McCullum and Stokes have been able to produce quite a few great Test wins, though their tenure began only a year-and-a-half ago.
In the English summer of 2022, England won four Tests — three against New Zealand and the one against India — all by chasing targets in excess of 270. The team attacked with bat and ball.
Bazball created a buzz. Test cricket had never been played like that before, though there have been batters like Virender Sehwag and Adam Gilchrist who have displayed similar spirit and fearlessness, but that was more of an individual thing.
England, however, lost to South Africa later that summer in the first match of a three-Test series.
The host still took the series 2-1.
The bigger test was always going to be the overseas tours, especially in the sub-continent. And Bazball succeeded spectacularly in Pakistan, whitewashing the host 3-0.
The highlight was the 74-run victory in the first Test at Rawalpindi. England won on the flat track by making 657 in just 101 overs.
Still, the question remained: Will Bazball work in India?
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