Sony Sports Network launches 'Architect in White – India Cricket in England’ docuseries on Test cricket rivalry between India and England.
90 years, 9 wins, 11 men and a million memories. That’s how special a Test win in England means for India. India started playing Test cricket in the 1930s, fought and earned independence for their nation in 1947 from the Britishers, but never won an international cricket match against England in England till 1971. In fact, it took India 14,299 days (39 years/469 months/2042 weeks/21 Test matches) to breach the England fortress. The victory at The Oval in 1971 wasn’t just a Test win, it was a win of emotions, pride and agony for 1 billion Indians who were subdued by the Britishers for years.
Sony Sports Network India recently came out with a four-part series ‘Architects in White’ that showcases India’s nine Test wins in England and recounts these glorious moments for the fans.
A Tale of Dull Dogs and Dark Horses
After ruling India for 89 years, the Britishers further dented India’s confidence by not giving anything to cheer for even on the cricket field for 39 years. It was a magical spell of mystery spin bowling from Bhagwat Chandrasekhar that brought an end to this drought of winless Test matches in England.
India were trailing by 71 runs in the first innings at The Oval, and it was Chandrasekhar’s magical 6-38, which bamboozled England’s batting line-up, that helped Indians raise the tri-colour flag in England. However, a single win wasn’t enough for India to erase the title of "dull dogs" as the English media kept bullying the Indians below the belt. It wasn’t just the media but the brunt of the defeat was also faced by the fellow Indians residing in the United Kingdom (UK), who had to face their share of bullying by the Englishmen.
Sunil Gavaskar said, “For a long time in cricketing history, England v India, was a bigger rivalry than any other. We all wanted to beat England in England – that was the main thing.”
It took India a win at the home of cricket, the Lord’s Cricket Ground, to show the world that they are here to stay, or rather, not just stay but to dominate. As Kapil Dev's men went on to win back-to-back Test matches on the 1986 tour of England which resulted in India’s second series win there.
This series win wasn’t just registered in the history books but also registered the beginning of a new era for young Indians to take up cricket as a profession. It all began on June 5, 1986 at Lord’s when Kapil Dev’s army fought hard and brave for five tough days. The game was like a child enjoying a free swing, changing sides every second. England were reduced to 294 in their first innings courtesy of a brilliant spell of swing bowling from Chetan Sharma, who bagged a five-fer (5-64). However, Graham Gooch’s 114 ensured England weren’t down and dusted.
India didn’t bog down either and went on to score 47 runs more than England, thanks to Dilip Vengsarkar’s marathon innings of 126 runs. India’s World Cup winning captain, aka ‘Haryana Hurricane’ Kapil Dev toppled England’s top order with figures of 4–52 and scored a match-winning 23(10) to win the game for India.
India’s dominance continued in the 2nd Test of the series, where they won by a staggering 279 runs, their highest-ever margin of victory in terms of runs back then. The second Test was all about Vengsarkar’s class and determination as he toiled hard against the deadly combination of John Lever and Derek Pringle, who were breathing fire. Vengsarkar's 102 not out coming in the second innings spoke volumes about him as that was an epochal innings by virtue of which India won their second Test series in England. The ‘dull dogs’ were finally riding the lions with a stick with the tri-colour flag on the top.
Dawn of a New Age
Another fierce leader of Indian cricket was standing with his head held high as Saurav Ganguly led India to win a Test match in England by an innings! Yes, by an innings! This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for India on English soil.
An out of the skin performance by India’s Fab Four - Sachin Tendulkar’s 193, Rahul Dravid’s 148, Sourav Ganguly 123 and Anil Kumble’s seven wickets in the match – battered the Englishmen. The Indians who are brought up on pitches with lots of spin and bounce, tackled the English bowlers with a mammoth 628 runs on the board to win the Leeds Test on the 2002 tour of England by an innings and 46 runs.
It was under Rahul Dravid that India achieved their third Test series win in England after almost 20 years. It was Zaheer Khan and his reverse swing that reversed the course of the match in India’s favour. Zak's nine-wicket haul in the match steamrolled the Englishmen. After 21 years without a Test series win in England, India made history once more. One thing that was common between the 1986 series win and the 2007 series was India’s dominance. India were undefeated in both series.
David Gower, Former England skipper, said, “In my playing days India had some great players – Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and a whole host of names that add to the magic of these contests. The game is not just in white, it is in all sorts of colours. It is around the world, it is fascinating, it is glamourous. For people like me, it is the men in white, the Architects in White who are the absolute heroes.”
Embarrassed & Humiliated 11-2 for the next 11 years
For 11 straight years after the 2007 series win, India were butchered, to say the least, by the Englishmen for 11 straight years in England. The World Cup winning team toured England in 2011, where they hit an all-time low and were obliqued 4-0. The embarrassment didn’t stop there. India lost again 3-1 in 2014, which sparked questions about the Test leadership skills of India’s most successful captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. A brilliant team effort assisted India to win an iconic test match at Lords, where Ajinkya Rahane went on the counter-attack to score a brilliant hundred when India were struggling at 128-6.
Ishant Sharma later barraged the Englishmen with truckloads of bouncers, which was indeed MS Dhoni’s master plan. The most painful thing in the 2011 and 2014 series was the way India lost, without a fight, shoulders down, hands in pockets and no real winning intent on the field. In four of the seven losses between 2011 and 2014, India lost by an innings, and in two games they lost by a margin of 250+ runs.
The humiliation at the hands of the Britishers was further widened when England defeated India in India after 28 years in the 2012/13 series by a margin of 2-1. India were a force to reckon with in matches in India and were outplayed by England in some fashion, which led to the further downfall of India in Test cricket between 2011 and 2015, till a certain Virat Kohli took over the baton from MS Dhoni.
A New Brand of Cricket – Fighting Fire with Fire
Since Virat Kohli took over as the full-time Test captain in 2014, the only thing that changed was the mentality of the players. A defensive India that believed in Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology of "koi ek gaal par tamacha marey to doosra aage kar do" changed to "eet ka jawab patthar se". This very small but important change was decisive in India’s dominance in Test cricket, which began thereafter. Kohli prioritised winning Test matches as well as winning overseas in SENA nations.
The 2018 series in England was the test of Virat Kohli’s command as a leader but India once again failed to win a Test series in England as they lost 4-1. The scorecard didn’t do justice to how valiantly India fought in the series. The silver lining of the series was India’s aggressive gameplay, perseverance and a genuine intent to win games abroad. But that series, that very series, paved the way for India and how Indians were going to approach test matches in SENA countries.
India settles with a 2-2 draw in Pataudi Trophy 2021 as they miss out on writing history
Then came the much-awaited Pataudi Trophy 2021 with a rejuvenated Kohli and Ravi Shastri at the helm. These were the players in India’s Test engine who kept on pushing the players and their limits. Two strong heads who infused controlled aggression into the players and who ensured that if someone from the opposition sledged any of our players, all of India’s 11 would give them a handful day in and day out.
For the first time in the history of India playing Test cricket in England, they were leading by 2-1 after the fourth Test. India toiled and toiled hard. A draw in the first game was followed by India winning by a handsome 151 runs in the second game at Lord’s with a terrific 126-run opening stand between Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, followed by a fiery 4-wicket haul by Mohammed Siraj in the fourth innings.
The standout thing in the game was the fight shown by the lower-order batters, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, who accumulated 89 runs for the 10th wicket as the English bowlers tried everything in their arsenal, from sledging to targeting with bouncers on the body. The banter between English fielders and Indian batters slurred a fiery fourth innings for the Englishmen as sledges, abuses and bouncers were used wholesale.
The team under the Kohli-Shastri duo was one for all and all for one. The mental model of India was the hallmark of the team. After losing by an innings and 76 runs in the 3rd game, India bounced back magnificently winning by 157 runs in the fourth match of the series.
The rescheduled 5th and final match of the Test series, with India on the brink of rewriting history, was played a year later with a new captain, a new head coach but the same aggression and do or die attitude. Indian batters and poking their bat outside off stump in swinging conditions is still a better love story than Romeo and Juliet, which continued in the fifth Test, as they lost half of their side for just 98 runs in the first innings.
Then came a hurricane, a never-before-seen counter-attack that shackled England left, right and centre, thanks to Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja. The left-hand duo accumulated 222 runs for the sixth wicket and anchored India out of danger. What followed later was a record-breaking and whirlwind innings from the new captain, Jasprit Bumrah. Not with the ball, but with the bat that floored the headlines of every piece of news that hit the editor. Stuart Broad was left wondering if it was Bumrah or Yuvraj Singh in disguise after Bumrah scored 35 runs in an over bowled by Broad. Despite the valiant fight, England chased down a record breaking 378 runs in the fourth innings courtesy of the new and brave England batting approach.
England’s Player of the Series, Joe Root along with probably the best number 5 batter in the world, Jonny Bairstow broke India's back in the fourth innings. This just shows how difficult it is to win a Test match in England and it is even more difficult to win a series in England given the home side will always have an upper hand over their opponents.