England captain Andrew Strauss challenged his side to improve their game still further after they completed a 4-0 whitewash of India.
England, who earlier in the series had replaced India at the top of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) world Test rankings, finished with a flourish, winning the fourth Test by an innings and eight runs to wrap up victory before tea on the fifth day in front of a capacity crowd at The Oval.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann hurried India to defeat with a return of six for 106 after Sachin Tendulkar had fallen nine runs short of becoming the first batsman to score 100 international hundreds.
England’s next Test is not until early next year when they face Pakistan in the UAE.
Although for several players the imminent One-Day International (ODI) series against India means there will be little respite from England duty, Strauss, who has retired from limited-overs cricket, will have plenty of time away from the spotlight.
Asked about the latest innings victory, Strauss told reporters, “I think it will keep me nice and warm, yes.
“We’ve had to put a lot into it and certainly in this game,” said Strauss.
However, Strauss warned that the players should not rest on their laurels.
“The greatest pitfall is that feeling that you’ve done it all, therefore you’re not willing to put in the hard work. I’d be very disappointed if we fell into that trap.”
And Strauss knows that whatever the ICC rankings may say, there will be plenty of cricket followers who will want to see how England perform in Asia before accepting they are the world’s top Test team.
“Winning away from home is more difficult,” said Strauss. “We should be competitive in any condition against anyone.
Dhoni vows ‘no surrender’
Meanwhile, defiant India captain MS Dhoni insisted he ‘didn’t believe in surrendering’ after his side suffered the Test thrashing.
“We shouldn’t take anything away from England, who played very well,” said Dhoni.
“I don’t believe in surrendering. This job was given to me when I wasn’t expecting it and I’m giving it my best shot.”
There were many observers, who bemoaned the influence of the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) on the team’s Test fortunes.
They pointed to how star opener Virender Sehwag missed the start of the series after delaying shoulder surgery having played in the IPL.
But Dhoni insisted, “This wasn’t about the IPL. Let’s not put everything on that.”
India’s defeat also turned the spotlight on coach Duncan Fletcher, the man who oversaw the start of England’s rise to the top.
“It can only get better for him,” said Dhoni. “The only place he can go from here is up. We didn’t perform to our potential and he must be feeling bad.”
“Away from home it is going to be harder, so we are going to have to challenge ourselves to improve away from home and then it is about maintaining standards and performance, and being consistent.”
“We need to start grooming young players and don’t shuffle them if they stutter. Look at Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhinav Mukund. They have talent but they need proper exposure and confidence.”
“We were extremely fortunate to have some really good players [Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid] all playing at one time, but they cannot go on forever. It will not be easy to replace them.”
“You may not see India come back at the top in quick time. But we have to ensure that with these youngsters, we remain in the top three and climb to the top spot after a few years.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2011.
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