Editorial / Gone to the test match
The stripping of the altars
People/ Courtney Walsh
The Telegraph Diary
Letters to the editor

India’s win over Australia was made from the stuff dreams are made of. Nobody expected that India would be able to defeat Australia in two successive tests and win the series. There were good grounds for such lack of expectations. The Aussies arrived in India with an enviable record of 15 consecutive victories in test matches and they capped this by a convincing win in the first test match in Mumbai. They were determined to clinch the series which their captain, Steve Waugh, had declared as “the last frontier”. The invincibility of the Aussies was compounded by some obvious drawbacks in the Indian side. First, the lack of penetrating bowlers, and second, the dependency of the batting line-up on Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. It did appear at the beginning of the series that the Indian attack would never be able to bowl out the Australians twice in any test match. This last assumption proved to be weak when in the first test match, the Australians were reeling at 99 for 5. It was clear then that the Indian bowlers were up to the task on surfaces with which they were familiar. Suddenly, the Australian middle order did not seem as strong and formidable as it had appeared. This was driven home in the second and final tests in both of which the off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh, ran through the Australian batting.

India’s batting, despite the consistent failure of Ganguly, was resurrected at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta. If Lazarus was raised from the dead by the touch of the master’s hand, Indian batting rose at the touch of V.V.S. Laxman. He showed his fellow players that the persistent line of Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie could be handled with proper application. The spin of Shane Warne held no terrors whatsoever. The fourth day of the second test match belonged to Laxman and perhaps was the pivot on which the series turned. His batting, to which Rahul Dravid played second fiddle, instilled a new confidence in the team. This capacity to fight back and the adrenalin of victory made the Indians look different during the test match at Chennai. And fortune, as is always her wont, favoured the brave. Steve Waugh’s strange dismissal and Michael Slater’s dropping of Tendulkar were indicators that the run of play was going away from the kangaroos. But this should not take away from the bowling of Harbhajan. He was, as Ganguly admitted after the match, a captain’s dream.

It is superfluous to say that the Indian team and Indian cricket have both received a shot in the arm by the triumph over Australia. The pall of gloom that had descended on the world of Indian cricket after the matchfixing scandals and the allegations against the former captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, has now lifted. The most important impact of this test series has been on test cricket itself. The one-day variety of the game, because it is concentrated and prone to big hitting, had detracted interest from the five-day variety. The latter was seen as dull and boring. To the genuine cricket lover, it has always been clear that one-day internationals represent a perversion of the delights of cricket. More and more people have begun to accept that one-day cricket is suffering from pattern exhaustion and that it is more susceptible to the evils of betting and matchfixing. To these realizations can now be added the fact, as amply demonstrated in this series, that test cricket at its best can be full of drama and uncertainty. The general public has begun to accept that good batting, as distinct from slogging, is attractive and exciting. What can be more memorable than Laxman’s batting in Calcutta? The test series also underlined the importance of good bowling in cricket. One-day cricket had tilted the game in favour of batsmen. The bowling of Harbhajan, Tendulkar, McGrath and Gillespie showed how crucial good bowling is to the uncertainty that is test cricket. Hurrah for Ganguly and his team, hurrah for test cricket!


Protestant England is no more. It died a generation ago; partly as a result of the decline of religious faith which has affected all the advanced societies of the West, and partly as the product of the concurrent liberalization of morals that so effectively dissolved the puritan taboos which once characterized the reformed sensibilities of northern Europe and north America. But to some degree, this was a peculiar death, not quite like the pathologies of secularization and permissiveness elsewhere. For the Protestant reformation in England was never merely an act of religious rebellion. It also represented a self-conscious assertion of political sovereignty: a legal as well as a theological declaration of independence.

This can be dated, precisely; to the Act in Restraint of Appeals, passed in 1534, establishing the inviolable principle that the crown of England recognized no jurisdiction beyond itself. Its end can also be dated, equally exactly; to British entry into the European Economic Community in 1973. But Henry’s secession was not a Protestant act. And entry into the European Union advanced the powers of the Bishop of Rome not one jot within the United Kingdom. The sense of a Protestant difference grew in England (then Britain) slowly during the 16th century until it became an absolute norm of life; until, that is, the sense of being a sovereign, exceptional and Protestant people came to define the very sense of self-identity implied, first in Englishness and then more widely in Britishness around the globe.

But when, exactly, did it begin? And how? Moreover, was it ever a common sensibility or more cynically an instrument first of dynasty politics and then subsequently of imperial conquest? Little more than a generation ago, the answers to those questions seemed clear. And their clarity was limpidly expressed in Professor Geoffrey Dickens’s masterly survey, The English Reformation, published in 1964: the English were an exceptional people because they were a Protestant people; their Protestantism was popular, robust and forward-looking; and it was the product of an indigenous religious sensibility which long pre-dated Henry VIII’s marital difficulties, heroically survived Mary’s fanatical persecutions and came into its pervasive, vernacular maturity during the region of Elizabeth I, part product of the external threat from Spain, but mainly the fruit of that majestic flowering of Anglophone religious sensibility embodied in the Book of Common Prayer, the thirty nine articles of the Church of England and (eventually) the King James Bible.

Yet Dickens survived only to celebrate what was dying about him. And others found that its moribund form hid altogether less heroic secrets. A generation of revisionist scholars, from J.J. Scarisbrick, through Christopher Haigh to Eamon Duffy, now popularized by the influential work of Norman Davies, argued that the English had never been a proto-protestant people at all; that the Reformation was forced upon them by an irresponsible monarch and a cynical aristocracy determined only to increase its authority and their wealth; that the result was a destruction of common religious sensibility to the general detriment of collective spiritual well-being; and that in the abrupt, imposed and deleterious separation from Europe, the English were (mis)guided into the delusory temptation of Anglo-Saxon imperialism, from which they have only recently and reluctantly extracted themselves, the belated and confused latecomers to a common European home.

So, was the Reformation a deliverance or a curse? What was once a question limited only to arcane antagonisms of theologians has now become a critical issue amongst secular historians; and through them, of common, educated sensibilities. And one thing is clear: the prevailing mood is now hostile. Semi-popular histories abound about the “myth” of the English nation, the bogus construction of Britishness, the passing of superficial Protestantism, and the like. All of which makes a return to the primary sources of the English, Protestant, Reformation imperative. No one is better equipped for this task than Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of Church History at the University of Oxford. Author of the acclaimed biography of Thomas Cranmer, he is also a distinguished student of Henrician politics and local ecclesiastical history in 16th-century England. Now, in Tudor Church Militant, a published version of his Birkbeck Lectures, delivered at Cambridge in 1997-98, he has turned his scholarly eye on the Edwardian Reformation, or the Protestant moment in English religious history. And the results are both fascinating and surprising.

For MacCulloch establishes from the outset that the Edwardian Reformation was truly the young king’s work. A minor he may have been, but he was neither bullied nor manipulated by his elders. They, even Protectors Somerset and Northumberland, were his servants, not his masters. Most unusually intelligent, highly educated and deeply motivated, Edward pursued reform with real Protestant fervour. Nor was he beyond a little Machiavellian scheming when the cause called for it. Following the collapse of his health in the early summer of 1553, he summoned all his remaining strength to mastermind an audacious — and wholly illegitimate — scheme to exclude his sisters from the succession (Elizabeth included) and leave the crown, according to his own device, in a reliable evangelical dynasty, headed by Lady Jane Grey. He almost succeeded.

But succeeded in what? Here, MacCulloch at his most original and daring, argues that the Edwardian Reformation was anything but an insular, English affair. In fact, it was distinctly internationalist, both in doctrine and liturgy. Far from asserting the monarch’s right to pronounce on all matters of doctrine, it made a point of actually waiting for the emergence of evangelical compromise in the vexed matter of the Eucharist, offering no pronouncement on this great question until the Zürich Agreement, or Consensus Tigurinus of May 1549, reconciled Bullinger and Calvin to a common Protestant conception of the sacrament. Far from establishing a peculiar English liturgy, it went to special lengths to patronize avant garde foreign congregations in England, notably those of the Italian refugees, Bernadino Ochino and Pietro Martire Vernigli as a way of promoting the renewed Universal Church in England.

But it was a Europeanism not of cosmopolitan cultivation; rather of painstaking improvement. This explains the iconoclasm of the Edwardian Reformation: the destruction of roods, the breaking of windows, the stripping of altars which so profoundly characterized its local promulgation. It also explains why such (apparent) destructiveness was so often popular. Here, MacCulloch takes the revisionist historiography on at its strongest point. For much has been made of late about the terrible wounds inflicted on traditional devotion by reforming innovations and prohibitions. Yet MacCulloch emphasizes not only the theory of religious renewal which underlay them, but also the sense of freedom — that is, freedom from the deceptions of the past — which often accompanied their enactment. He also insists, contrary to the current orthodoxy, on the very considerable success of that project; just how, across huge swathes of the south and east of England “the common people”, encouraged by dramatic preaching, turned against the old religion.

This explains why Queen Mary’s “reversal” after 1553 provoked so much hostility, from minority martyrdom to widespread absenteeism. More importantly, it also explains why her sister’s effective abandonment of reform from the top did not have the effect of subduing religious controversy in England after 1559. On the contrary, it ensured that the principal dynamic of religious politics in later 16th-century England was defined by the conflict between an official obstructionism and what eventually became a popular Puritanism. In that way, what had begun as little more than an exercise in royal convenience truly became the characteristic expression of a common religious sensibility. Within impeccably official forms, but according to an increasingly heterodox understanding of their true purposes, the English became a recognizably Protestant people alternately cantankerous, moralistic and philistine (the 17th-century cosmopolitan’s typical verdict), or upstanding, progressive and freedom-loving (the 19th-century patriot’s preferred version). They have recently ceased to be such a people. With what consequences, we cannot yet truly judge. But MacCulloch’s profound and elegant history of its origins should lead us away from the comforting illusion that these consequences will be trivial.

The author is fellow, All Souls College, Oxford    


The giant

It has been an extraordinary week for cricket. But away from the circus of Chennai, a more remarkable event took shape in distant Port-of-Spain this week. First, South African Gary Kirsten was caught by wicketkeeper Ridley Jacob. A few balls later Jacques Kallis was dismissed leg before without scoring. Nothing special about those two dismissals except for the fact that the wicket taker, Courtney Walsh — the lanky fast bowler, his hair flecked by white — had just taken his 500th wicket, making him the most successful bowler in the history of test cricket.

Walsh’s latest feat is one of the last acts in a compelling career which began in 1984-85. He turns 39 this October, and surely it will be time for him to retire and take on a responsibility less taxing than being a West Indian pace bowler for 17 long years.

“I plan to reassess my body and my mind at the end of this tour. But this could certainly be my last tour...” has been a standard Walsh quote for the last four years or so. Every time Walsh was on tour in the last few years, the only questions that seemed to follow him everywhere were about his retirement. Somewhere in the middle of this he first crossed the 400-wicket mark and then quietly overtook Kapil Dev’s haul.

Later the 500-wicket mark was playing on his mind and he was candid enough to admit it. “I think 500 wickets is a possibility but I will need luck, consistency and a few more Test matches,” the lanky Jamaican admitted.

He got all of that and more in the last few months. In the process, he ended up bowling more deliveries in Test matches than any one else in the game.

It was evident even as celebrations started among the Queen’s Park Oval crowd in the aftermath of his record that Walsh was playing his last series for certain. Not only was he enthusiastically mobbed by team-mates but he was also given a few hugs by South African players as they trooped out for tea.

“Those who know Courtney know his heart is probably one of the biggest in cricket and these are challenges he has risen to almost every year of his career. The type of person he is even at this stage, when a lot of people would probably have thrown in the towel, he’s still going out there and he’s still battling, still keeping up a very high standard. It’s a real credit to him,” says Jimmy Adams, former West Indian captain.

More than anything else, it is his remarkable stint that people keep referring to again and again. “It was yet another occasion to celebrate the class, commitment and astonishing longevity of one of the game’s most revered players,” said cricket expert Tony Cozier in an article written after the historic feat.

But his staying power has also meant that Courtney Walsh has seen the West Indies team disintegrating from world beaters to also rans. In fact, he is the last link with the greatness of the past.

Walsh might have been part of a historic and legendary line-up but he was a dedicated plugger at the best of times, never the glamour boy of the team. The new ball, in most cases, was given to someone else. His figures would mostly be: 25 overs, 70 runs and 2 or 3 wickets at best. Even the West Indian captaincy came to him by default, when Richie Richardson and Desmond Haynes made themselves unavailable.

Walsh never fitted into the typical image of a fast bowler prone to breathing and spewing fire. When he achieved a hat-trick against Australia in Brisbane — he got the wickets over two innings — he didn’t know about it until the feat was announced over the stadium’s public address system.

Perhaps the biggest evidence of his character was seen in 1987 during the Reliance World Cup. At Lahore, during a tight match against Pakistan, the home team started the final over needing 14 runs for victory. From nowhere, Abdul Qadir and Saleem Jaffer conjured up an improbable victory with Qadir hitting the last ball for a six.

But the turning point of the match had come a few balls before. Even as Walsh was running in to bowl, Jaffer could be seen backing up well-outside the crease at the non-striker’s end.

Walsh, gentleman that he is, refused the easy temptation of running him out and let him go with a warning. It cost West Indies the match, but Courtney Walsh did not play his cricket any other way.

For many. many years he has remained the senior citizen of the team. “He’s a very comforting presence. His kind of personality in the dressing room keeps a level on a lot of things. He’s so highly respected by everybody. It’s like having a grandfather around keeping a lid on things,” said Jimmy Adams a little while ago.

Unlike most of his peers, Walsh never even resorted to sledging. “It is not good to sledge. Stare maybe, but not sledge. We play hard but fair,” he said once.

He remained true to those words right through his career. He knew that he had the ammunition to be the best of cricketers — line and length, patience and pride.



Revising a policy

Clearly, the lady’s man. Sonia Gandhi seems to have lost and suddenly found PV Narasimha Rao again. At the 81st plenary of the party in Bangalore, it was Rao, all too recently cold-shouldered by the party over the JMM bribery scandal, who shared the centre-stage with madam. The Congress president consulted him on almost all major issues and Rao, only too willingly, obliged. His swansong was however his 10-page dissertation on economic policy, by which he tried to convince madam and her pro-reforms think-tank about the necessity to adopt a “revisionist” policy. In his private conversations with bigwigs he explained that “liberalization” as his government set off, never meant privatization (ahem!). All policy matters had one target — to deliver the greatest good to the greatest number. If the reforms were failing to do that, there was no harm in correcting the course. (Or going back on your word?) Anyway, madam seems to have been sufficiently impressed. The problem was with the lesser Congresswallahs, who resented every bit of the limelight Rao got. Leading a crusade against corruption with a man who had several corruption cases hanging against him by your side was one idea that did not appeal to the partyworkers at all. So they let their resentment known, quietly though. Apart from Sonia Gandhi and her lieutenant, Arjun Singh, not one of the speakers addressed Rao during their speech. But did Chanakya get the hint, or would he care if he did?

Resolution unmade

Economic policy seems to have been quite a talking point among the Congresswallahs, particularly among two rival Bengalis — Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Pranab Mukherjee. The former, for one, clearly demonstrated his resentment of the economic resolution, which was finally formulated by the more famous Bengali — Pranabda. Das Munshi for some time now has been trying to convince madam to get back to the Nehruvian model of mixed economy, if the Congress had any hopes of reviving its sagging image. Priya declared that the economic resolution, which incidentally also allowed him to take a dig at Mukherjee, was anti-labour and didn’t oppose the proposed industrial dispute act. Mukherjee, however, refused to buckle under pressure, although he did admit that the resolution missed the barbs against the FM’s propositions. But Pranab ensured that no changes were made in the resolution and refused to give the assurance in writing. He also made it a point to remind others later that the government was yet to bring the bill. “We will oppose it when it comes”. Was it his way of telling Priya that he is the senior parliamentarian and knows the rules of the game better?

Why can’t he be king?

Congressmen have their own way of functioning. Veteran leader of the party, K Karunakaran, for the past few weeks has been insistent with the demand that the high command declare his son, Muralidharan, will be made the chief minister if the Congress led United Democratic Front comes to power in the coming elections. He apparently has met the Congress president several times over the past few weeks to press the issue with madam. Although Sonia reportedly has given him no such assurance, Karunakaran apparently has let it be known that 10 Janpath has given its nod. When journos asked Karunakaran why he was so persistent with an issue that would ultimately promote dynasty rule in Kerala, the leader replied with gusto that he saw nothing wrong with the idea. If Rajiv Gandhi’s widow could become the Congress president and be declared the prime ministerial candidate when the party came to power, what wrong had Karunakaran done so that his son would be denied the privilege of stepping into the shoes of the father? Nothing really. It’s just that the Congress has this bad habit of sometimes waking up to the fact that this is a democracy after all.

Each against his own

From the battlefront in West Bengal. The grapevine has it that the Trinamool Congress candidate for the Sealdah assembly seat, Tapas Roy, may opt out of the fray. Reason? Roy apparently has said that he cannot contest his one-time guru, Somen Mitra, who has already announced his plans to seek re-election from the area. Congress sources say chhorda, that is Mitra, also feels embarrassed to have Roy pitted against him. To prevent this rather unfair guru-shishya battle, Mitra is reportedly trying his best to prevail over the Congress high command to work out the poll tie up with Trinamool chief, Mamata Banerjee, without further delay. Mitra says, “After all, people will laugh at us if we fight against our own people”. But they’ll have the last laugh anyway!

Footnote / Seal the borders

The Trinamool and the state BJP unit are apparently bringing in hi-tech devices to guard their fences. Managers in both parties are having sleepless nights over the possibility of the fence-sitters taking the final jump. The Trinamool has reportedly identified three with this affliction — Ajit Panja, Bikram Sarkar and Nitish Sengupta. Didi allegedly has secret information that the BJP’s central leadership, having failed to get her on their side perpetually, has begun a secret move to rope in the three to wreck the party. Simultaneously, the BJP state unit is keeping round the clock vigil on some party leaders seen to be inching closer to the Trinamool. In fact, the all-India vice-president of the BJP, Kailashpati Mishra, who was on a two-day visit to the city recently, also expressed concern over the proximity of some saffronites with the rival camp. “We are convinced that at least two key leaders are planning to switch over to the Trinamool”, admits a state BJP leader. They obviously cannot be blamed. After the Tehelka storm, the state BJP has little chance of winning in the state. But what ails the three Trinamoolis?    

Sir — The Tehelka revelations have paved the way for a new political alliance in West Bengal (“BJP obliges Mamata”, Mar 22). By formally severing ties with the Trinamool Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party has spared Mamata Banerjee the unpleasant task of calling off the three-year alliance. It has also afforded her the opportunity to explore the possibility of a new one with the Congress. If things go her way, the much talked of mahajot may actually become a reality. Despite Banerjee’s earlier support to the BJP, she has realized the folly of associating with the government in the post-Tehelka scenario. Will Banerjee’s volte face help her secure the adequate numbers in the coming elections?
Yours faithfully,
Nitish Chowdhury, via email

No benefactors

Sir — Sanjib Baruah’s article, “Private wealth, public duty” (Jan 19), is a thought-provoking, well-written piece, which raises a number of important questions. In most Indian states and particularly in West Bengal, education is almost entirely government-funded. Some institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology are notable exceptions, but they have however witnessed a steep rise in fees, which only students from rich families can afford.

In recent years, some engineering colleges had tried to obtain funds from other sources, but without much success. Unfortunately, education has never been one of our top priorities. As a result,institutions no longer receive private donations.

Yours faithfully,
Keshab Mukherjee, Calcutta

Sir — Over the years, students from West Bengal have suffered immensely because of the innumerable delays in conducting examinations and in publishing results by Calcutta University. This year the BCom (Honours) Part II examinations are scheduled to commence from May 3. The university has not taken into consideration the fact that the all-India chartered accountants’ intermediate examinations are held from May 2. In such a situation, we are being forced to drop our CA examinations. Such a move will have an adverse effect on our careers.

We will also be lagging behind students from other states by about six months. We hope that the university and the concerned authorities will schedule examinations after considering all such factors.

Yours faithfully,
Rohit Pasari, Calcutta

Extended silence

Sir — In his article, “Extending the silence in the valley” (March 14), Manvendra Singh has given us an accurate picture of the situation in Kashmir since the declaration of the Ramadan ceasefire. The move made by the Centre has indeed paid. This is evident from the support extended by the local leaders of the Hizbul Mujahedin to the ceasefire.

However, Pakistan’s attitude has not changed. Not only has it failed to rein in the jihadis and the militant groups under its control, it has also been unable to realize the futility of violence as a mode of negotiation.

The recent visit of the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, to India and his support of the measures taken by the Indian government to promote peace in the valley, have had very little effect on Pakistan.

Unless Pakistan is willing to cooperate in the peace process, all initiatives taken by the government will be defeated in the process.

Yours faithfully,
Niloy Sinha, Azimganj

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