I guess that’s why they call it home advantage…

Has Indian skullduggery ever reached such lows? Short of actually releasing a herd of livestock onto the outfield and letting them mill around during the game, there’s nothing more they could have done to piss on England’s chips in terms of preparation than to prepare pitches quite unlike what they’ll face in the Test matches and essentially give them warm up games against a bunch of Sunday second elevens (without spinners).

At least that’s what certain high-profile former English players would have you believe. In a tweet (I can’t believe I’m using a tweet as a journalistic source), Michael Vaughan called the tactics ‘pathetic’ and not in the spirit of the game. David Lloyd described it as ‘lacking in class and style’.


I won’t have it. This is not unfair, this is not ‘pathetic’ and it is certainly not contrary to the so-called spirit of the game. This is home advantage. There seems to be a great deal of rose-tinted spectacle wearing going on here for yonder days of the thwack of leather on willow on the village green, where having clean-bowled the blacksmith, leaving stumps spread-eagled in all directions, the parson would turn to the umpire (the postmaster, probably) and politely ask if he wouldn’t mind terribly giving the old chap out. This might be the way things happened at village level, but at higher levels there’s always been a little more interpretation of the spirit of the game. How about Thomas White, who in 1771 walked to the crease with a bat as wide as the wicket? Remember Bodyline? Remember Trevor Chappell’s underarm ball with six to win? Or perhaps Hansie Cronje and the leather jacket? Brian Rose declaring at 1 for 0?

Epic-scale sharp practice is nothing new, in other words. The BCCI’s alleged indiscretions here are of microscopically bad form compared to the examples cited above, all of which resulted in changes in the laws of the game (except for Cronje, who received a life ban). I would refute suggestions it is bad form at all. Why should India pack their team full of spinners for a warm-up game, giving England precious practice at their biggest weakness? Why should they produce wickets like they will get in the Test match? Indeed, if the boot was on the other foot, as it was when India came over in 2011, faced with wickets nothing like the green-tops they would face in the Test matches, we’d be telling the Indians to stop whining.

In fact, there’s a case to be made that the poor quality of the bowling line-ups England have faced in the warm-up games have helped them out. All of their likely top seven have scored at least one fifty in the practice matches, including KP, who is coming, somewhat controversially, back into the side, Nick Compton, who has never played for England before and bagged a blob and a one in his first two innings here and Samit Patel, who was by no means a shoe-in for the job when he arrived in India. Surely England would be more worried if they’d been repeatedly rolled over by a bunch of second-rate spinners…

There’s a reason why winning away from home is considered to be more difficult than winning at home. Conditions are unfamiliar; you lack the home support. They can’t expect the opposition to facilitate matters. That’d be like a tennis player asking his opponent to only hit to his forehand side because he’s not so good on the backhand or for home football fans not to show favouritism towards their team. Home advantage is as much a part of the game as setting the field to exploit a batsman’s weakness. Let’s not be going back to the days when playing shots on the leg side was not only considered ungentlemanly but necessitated an immediate apology to the bowler. India should remain unapologetic about their stance and do everything within the laws of the game to give themselves the best chance of winning.

You’ll notice that there hasn’t been a squeak from the England camp about all this. They know the way the game’s played; their attitude to home advantage can be summed up in two words: Dukes balls. Such is the perceived advantage to England caused by these slightly different red leather things, that Cricket Australia are to start using them in domestic cricket to prepare themselves for the Ashes. If England were to complain, it would be for the cooking vessel to call the water-boiler midnight blue.

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