Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Taking a leaf out of Stuart Broad's book!
This one's headed the same way as the last one... and it is unbelievably painful to watch it happen. Mad hope kept flickering up every now and again, but there was always an air of inevitability even when there was some promise being shown.

Which tour is more depressing as a cricket viewer? I really have no idea, and even if I discover some way of measuring my depression, I would really not be interested in doing so. But since we are in the midst of the Australian tour, I want to touch upon certain points that make me really afraid of what's happening and what more might happen.

During the tour of England, a lot of things went wrong for India. It was believed that if some of those things had gone right, India would not have suffered the embarrassment of a whitewash. In the period between the England tour and the Australian tour, there were a few steps taken that were seemingly lessons from the former. Yet, here we are... facing the very same 4-0 scoreline against an opponent that is definitely not as good as England had been!

So what were the excuses that could have been passed off as reasons for the England debacle?


India received the biggest blow possible on the very first day of the Test series in England, when Zaheer Khan limped back into the dressing room clutching his hamstring muscles after having picked up the wickets of both the English openers (and having a catch dropped of their No. 3 in the slips) by soundly working them over. The absence of Zaheer Khan for the rest of the tour was considered to be one of the biggest factors of India's losses there by all and sundry.

But now, in hindsight, one wonders how much of a difference would he really have made! He has been available for all the 3 Test matches in Australia, and while he has bowled well himself, India's attack really has not looked as threatening as it should have considering the personnel present. One might say that the Zaheer-led bowling attack has done commendably except for that one period spanning over two Tests in different time zones where they conceded 836 runs for just 1 wicket, but that is a hollow argument!

The only conclusion that can be drawn after watching India bowl in the 7 losses thus far is that with or without Zaheer Khan, the bowling has just not been good enough to get the team within sights of a victory! While their opponents have had bowlers (Stuart Broad and Peter Siddle being prime examples) who have altered their bowling lengths to gain impressive rewards, the Indian team continue to field a bowler (read Ishant Sharma) whose lengths have received sound punishment and have shown no signs of changing.


In England, India was hampered by lack of fit personnel even at the top of the batting lineup. Sehwag was unfit for the first two Tests, and did not look fit enough even in his return for the last two Tests. Gambhir suffered injuries during the series. Tendulkar had to play an innings battling fever. Yuvraj Singh got injured during the series.

In Australia, there have been no such problems. Sehwag came in completely fit having scored the highest score by a batsman in ODIs, and Gambhir too came in fully fit and having recovered a bit of his lost touch against the West Indies at home. And even before the series started, there was more or less a certainty that Virat Kohli would be given a decent run at the No. 6 spot. So as a result, India played an unchanged top-7 in all three Tests... and floundered in each one of them!

The consistent failures of the Indian batting unit have been very baffling and difficult to explain. These men have brilliant records and have been proven performers in the past even in tough away conditions too. With these 7 losses, voices have grown loud that these batting stalwarts are old now, and their age is showing up in their batting. Dravid's spree of bowled dismissals are explained as a result of slowing reflexes.

These very same men had had wonderful runs with the bat in not too distant a past, and back then, they were being described as fine wine - getting better with age. Now, they are supposedly getting slower with age. It's the easiest way of calling for their heads, I suppose!

While it is obvious that sooner rather than later, these men will have to make way for a younger generation of batsmen, one needs to realise that age has hardly been a factor in their undoing. Yes, they have failed... failed in 7 consecutive away Tests! But I honestly believe that this failure has been more due to much braver (read fuller) bowling from the opposition bowlers in helpful conditions. Since the Indian bowlers have not been able to replicate such consistency in bowling, the opposition batsmen have been made to look much better than their Indian counterparts, which may not be the genuine case!


In England, lack of acclimatisation and preparation in those conditions was considered to be a major factor in the losses. The Indian team landed in England after the Caribbean tour less than 10 complete days before the start of the first Test. They played just one 3-day warm-up game before the first Test, and looked ill at ease in conditions that were completely different from the ones they are accustomed to.

For the Australian tour, certain players reached Down Under more than two weeks before the first Test, and the others reached about 12 days prior. The preparation involved one 3-day game and one 2-day game. No player was coming in unfit or with the lack of match practice. In fact, India's biggest concern was over the fitness of Zaheer Khan... but he too played two Ranji games before playing a warm-up match in Australia.

After the first Test at MCG, Dhoni said that India have always been poor starters. It was depressing to see him hide behind that age-old facade... while the truth remains that the first Test was the one where the team was the most competitive during this tour, and had genuine chances of a win! Since then, it has all been downhill.


The IPL got a lot of flak after the England disaster, because of the way it disrupted cricket schedules. While the rest before the Australian tour for the team was hardly any better, but they were at home in an ODI series. This meant that the core of India's middle order was well rested and those who were participating in the ODI series were doing so to gain match fitness, practice or cement their spots in the Test team.

The scheduling also received a lot of flak because of the inadequate acclimatisation factor, as touched upon in the previous point. Yet no such reasons can be passed off here in Australia. The only conclusion that I can draw is that the team has actually been outplayed on the field, and any changes in the external factors would hardly have made any difference to the eventual result!

In England, the Indian team was beaten by a deserving side functioning at the top of its game. All the reasons / excuses that were put up by the fans defending the team were nothing but a protective shield to prevent any adverse after-effect of that shocking loss! Therefore, it was doubly depressing to see that protective shield blown apart piece-by-piece in a systematic fashion to leave the team and the fans nakedly exposed and vulnerable.

Every now and again, time calls for change. For the Indian team, there had been confusion over the past couple of years about when exactly is that time. Well, there is no such confusion now! That time for change has come, and a lot of rebuilding needs to be done. There will be more losses on the way, and more pain to be endured. But what needs to be done must be done!

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