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India vs England: Tourists have come to know the harsh realities of sub-continent cricket

The Independent logo The Independent 13-12-2016 Derek Pringle
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It’s been a while coming but the fourth day’s play in Mumbai will seem scarily familiar for scores of England cricketers who have toured India down the years.

It is the Indian hope trick. One minute they have ambitions to win the game, the next they are clinging on for dear life. To go from one extreme to the other in the space of a few days without quite understanding why is what makes playing there one of the greatest tests in cricket of a player’s character, technique and sanity.

The sense of helplessness for England has been palpable and has been for just about every visiting team to India for generations, save for Pakistan and Sri Lanka. To score 400 in the first innings on a turning pitch and be so under the cosh a few days later defies the laws of nature let alone cricket. As Virat Kohli and Jayant Yadav took India’s total into the realms of fantasy, and then Ravidra Jadeja began fizzing them feet rather than inches when India bowled again, Alastair Cook’s team could do little more than wear the dazed expression of somebody mugged in broad daylight.

On past visits, the cultural shock of visiting India added to the discomfort felt by visiting teams on the pitch. These days players are cocooned in five star hotels with security details to keep civilian India at bay. But that isolation can give a false sense of security as England’s growing bewilderment showed.

People watching will ask, quite rightly, why Kohli was barely discomfited by England’s spinners on the kind of dusting pitch their ilk should dream of bowling on? Kohli is an exceptional talent who has made batting look easy in Mumbai but part of the answer can be found by taking any rush hour journey in India by tuk-tuk, the motorised scooters that teem in every city, town and village.

The sheer dexterity, judgement and daring shown by tuk-tuk drivers as they weave through the traffic finding gaps that to the untrained eye just don’t exist, are breathtaking. Proof, if any were needed, that verve and virtuosity, two key ingredients to Kohli’s brilliance, are in India’s DNA.

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