Despite India's defeats in the first Two Tests against England, I'm looking forward to the third Test which starts at Edgbaston on Wednesday. Its a make or break match for India as another win for England would clinch the series and also put them at the top of the ICC World rankings, replacing India as the number one Test team in the world. As a proud and passionate Indian, any defeat for my own country's cricketers is painful, but the additional disappointment of being replaced at the top of a ranking list would be a bitter blow. There's no denying that India haven't played well in the series so far and the analysis that has followed has been predictable and, of course, justifiable. After all, when a team reaches the top and then under performs, people - not just journalists - look for reasons.
Many theories have been presented and discussed. Injuries certainly haven't helped and I would defy any team denied the skills of Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh not to suffer. An exhausting schedule has also been touted as a reason along, with the specific presence of the IPL on the calendar. But does anyone other than me find it strange that the match schedule only becomes an issue when things start going wrong? India have been the number one-ranked Test playing nation since December 2009. The IPL has been in existence for four years and there hasn't been an issue until now. Professional sportsmen thrive on competition and playing one-day or T20 cricket has assisted in India's prominence, not curtailed it.
In recent months, England have been busy winning the Ashes in Australia and also played seven one-day games and two Twenty/20 fixtures. They've travelled in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for the World Cup and then 'warmed up' at home for this current series, with three Tests, a Twenty/20 and five one-day internationals against Sri Lanka. As I write, England have announced they'll be without Jonathan Trott and possibly Chris Tremlett at Edgbaston, but there's no major debate on their absence. That's because England are winning and people don't need to look for excuses.
There have even been suggestions that the Indian team now lacks commitment and this is another area where I have to take immediate and strenuous issue! I've had the privilege and pleasure to have worked with the top players from all over the world. We are talking here about professionals. These guys don't get to play for their country without a determination that goes with the talent and their desire to win is a motivation that extends beyond the financial one that many suggest. No commitment? No way! That's plainly wrong. Could India have performed better in England than they have so far? Of course they could. Are the players who took India to the top of the world, now a bunch of under performing prima donnas, who've suddenly lost their ability and their commitment? Of course not!
India are 2-0 down and under the microscope but I am eagerly anticipating the start of the game at Edgbaston because there has already been some tremendously competitive cricket on display and I'm sure there will be again. Cast your mind back to the first Test at Lord's. England, with a first innings lead were then reduced to 62-5 in their second innings before an unbeaten century from Matt Prior and 74 not out from Stuart Broad put the game out of reach.
In the second Test, England were 124-8 in their first innings before Broad stepped up with a vital 64.
Has anyone stopped to think that India might simply be playing a team at the very top of its game? England have match winners throughout their side. Andrew Strauss is an excellent leader and Ian Bell has become a forceful, dependable run maker. Matt Prior is one of the best - if not THE best - wicketkeeper/ batsmen in the world, Graeme Swann commands similar respect in the spin department and a seam attack bursting with aggressive wicket takers makes for a formidable line up. And let's not forget the ever-present danger of Kevin Pietersen who's unbeaten 202 in the first Test proved he's still an integral part of the side. Yes, England deserve tremendous credit for their performances so far.
So for me, the argument that India's players have played too much cricket is a 'red herring' and is a convenient talking point for people to make easy assumptions about. I also happen to think its disrespectful to England.