How to break records: Play against India. Just as England did with a record last-wicket partnership between Joe Root and James Anderson at Trent Bridge
Joe Root celebrates his ton with James Anderson during their world record stand at Trent Bridge.There’s a certain dread that comes with diehard sports fandom: the dread of having your heart broken by those you consider heroes; the dread of not just defeat, but embarrassment at the pinnacle of,Joe Root celebrates his ton with James Anderson during their world record stand at Trent Bridge.There’s a certain dread that comes with diehard sports fandom: the dread of having your heart broken by those you consider heroes; the dread of not just defeat, but embarrassment at the pinnacle of sport. No one knows this better than Indian cricket fans.The world record last-wicket partnership between Joe Root and James Anderson at Trent Bridge that frustrated India on the third and fourth days of the first Test was just the latest chapter in that book of dread. For 53.2 overs and 198 runs, England’s most reliable youngster and a dogged No. 11 kept India’s hitherto threatening seam attack at bay. Mind you, Anderson’s last international outing had seen him block his team to the virtual safety of a draw, only to be dismissed off the penultimate ball of the match, thereby handing a historic series victory to Sri Lanka. And yet, no Indian could dislodge him for 230 minutes, 130 balls and 81 fine runs.Rewind a few months. On the tour of New Zealand in February, in the second Test, India took 15 Kiwi wickets for 286 runs with an attack similar to the one they are fielding now. But from 94 for five in the second innings, the home side went on to score 680 for eight declared, with skipper Brendon McCullum and B.J. Watling putting on a world record sixth-wicket stand of 352 runs-in the process, McCullum hit the first triple ton by a Kiwi-and No. 8 Jimmy Neesham also striking an unbeaten hundred. These aren’t even the most embarrassing chapters in the book of dread.advertisementFor that you need to go back to August 1997 and Colombo. India posted 537 for eight declared, and removed Marvan Atapattu with Sri Lanka on 39. What followed, as any Indian fan will tell you with a wince, is the biggest score in Test history-952 for six declared-and the highest second-wicket partnership ever of 576 runs between Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama. Jayasuriya’s 340 was then the second-highest score by an opener in Tests, and as he belted them, the largely, experimental Indian attack had nowhere to hide.Further back, there is Graham Gooch’s feat in the Lord’s Test of 1990. Not only did he send India on a leather hunt with his first innings 333, he followed it up with 123 in the second innings to claim the record for the highest single-match aggregate score.All these records have come overseas, which is hardly surprising considering India have always defended their home turf with a bit more pluck. Also, despite some infamous collapses, Indian batsmen have largely kept up their end of the bargain, or, at the least, not let it fall to embarrassing standards.The 42 all out at Lord’s in 1974 or the 100 and 66 at Durban in 1996 are mere aberrations that don’t really plumb the depths of despondency. In fact, the only world record of note that Indian batsmen have contributed to is Ajantha Mendis’s mark of 26 wickets in a three-Test debut series in 2008.So, what is it about Indian bowlers that makes batsmen queue up as if at a free buffet? It’s no secret that India has never produced a steady stream of quality bowlers. For every Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, there has been a multitude of impressive domestic bowlers who have failed to make the highest grade. Part of the reason is the historical lack of an out-and-out quick who can run through a line-up. Indian pacers and spinners alike tend to rely on out-thinking and outfoxing batsmen, so on flat wickets (by overseas standards), they have nowhere to hide.Indian bowling line-ups also tended to be one-dimensional. In the pre-Kapil era, the team relied on spin; when the swing era of Kapil and Manoj Prabhakar followed, quality spinners were lacking.Now, it’s three medium pacers plus bowling all-rounders, none of whom bowl above 140 kmph consistently. The other factor is that oft-mentioned lack of killer instinct, which afflicts bowlers as well as many captains. For all of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s innovations, he gets defensive easily. Ditto Sachin Tendulkar, who was the leader when Sri Lanka set that record in 1997.In fact, the only time bowlers have gone shoulder-to-shoulder with their batsmen, they helped shape the golden era of Indian Test cricket. With Srinath, Zaheer and sundry others manning the pace department and Harbhajan and Kumble handling spin, the captaincies of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Kumble himself brought positive results and avoided embarrassments abroad.It’s probably no coincidence that these captains were aggressive and knew when and how to go for the kill.- Follow the writer on Twitter @11shreyasadvertisementTo read more, get your copy of India Today here.