A Blunder Down Under
So that’s it. At the end of the third test match in Perth, India is 0-3 down in the series. We have surrendered meekly once again, proven that we are losers, weaklings, lambs abroad, have a weak underbelly etc etc. In short, we’ve proved what the Chappells, Boycotts and all the other commentators have been stating after the England series right. Team India is finished; if what everyone says is to be believed. A decade of hard work, grittiness, character and victories has been forgotten. The players who took the Indian team to No.1 in the World rankings are the same players who are in the firing line after the 7th successive away defeat.
The Death Rattle
A beleaguered state, one would have to say, that Team India finds itself in. Especially after the pre-series build up and the endless hype; what with the ‘THUNDER DOWN UNDER’ adverts and the ‘AGNEEPATH SERIES’ promos. Hrithik Roshan running wildly into the fire is an ironic scene, considering the way the series has progressed till now. He could well have been portraying the Indian players running wildly to their downfall. And to think that we were considered favourites to win the series for the first time in Australia. ‘The best batting line-up in the world’ was going to roll Australia’s rookie bowlers over and win convincingly. Some even thought the series was a foregone conclusion, and most of the hype was on Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th century.
REALITY CHECK, INDIA
In 6 innings, Tendulkar hasn’t crossed 80, and averages below 40. The hype and burden of expectations seem to be getting to him finally, and a debatable LBW decision hasn’t helped matters. It’s also definitely a cause for concern when you are the only batsman who gives the opposition a fight. To all Tendulkar diehards (which includes me), I humbly request you to stop expecting him to score a 100 in every innings, or even in every alternate innings. He is no ‘GOD’, so to speak; he’s just a man who’s made the most of his talent over the last 21 years. But here’s where we draw a line, folks. Sachin’s 38 now, and it is foolish to expect him to replicate his majestic innings at Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, in that order.
Tendulkar, however, is far better off when one is faced with the Laxmans and Dravids, so called ‘Masters of Australia’, who average in the 10s and 20s respectively in this series. The Great Wall has been broken. Holes have been punched in the impregnable defence, leaving a big gap between bat and pad for the ball to sneak through and destroy the stumps. Dravid has been bowled 6 times in this series, an alarming statistic. Very Very Special Laxman has been transformed into the complete antithesis of these three words. Gone is the Laxman who treated Aussie bowlers like gully cricketers. Here’s the unsure Laxman, the defensive Laxman; the Laxman who gets cleaned up by straight balls. It’s heart-wrenching to see Laxman like this; it reminds one of getting up from a wonderful dream, with a glass of cold water splashed in the face. And what about Sehwag; fresh from his 219 on a flat pitch against docile bowling? He looks nothing like the player who got 195 in Melbourne and 151 in Adelaide, against a rampaging Brett Lee no less.
Say Hello to REALITY
And the reality is that, regardless of how long we keep blabbering on and on about the achievements of the 3 legends of Indian batting, they are well past their use-by date. Replacements are the need of the hour. Capable replacements , I’d say, to punctuate my point. Not the Suresh Raina or Yusuf Pathan types, who are more miss than hit in this form of the game; but somebody with real class, somebody with a little bit of fight in them. A Tendulkar one can never hope to find, but in Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli we have decent stock. Sharma has warmed the benches all series, and Kohli, after showing his finger enough to the crowds, has decided to put it to better use. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane are other promising youngsters. In my opinion, they should be given a chance in subsequent series. Not all has been bad in the bowling department too. Zaheer Khan is back to his wicket taking ways, and Umesh Yadav has been the find of the series. Yadav’s ball to bowl Ponting at Perth is regarded by many as the ball of the series. Together they have bowled out the Aussies twice in Melbourne and Sydney, an occurrence that looked improbable in England. If Yadav can keep his body together, and if Ishant can bowl a fuller length, then there is hope for the bowling department in the future.
It’s time for a change in personnel; for a tough talk with the team. It’s time to plan for the future. It’s time to stop putting the IPL on a pedestal, and time to give more importance to the Ranji Trophy. Maybe prepare some sporting pitches, throw in a green top or two, just so our domestic players will know what to expect. I can go on and on, but I am absolutely powerless. The power of change lies with the selectors and the captain. The ball is in their court. India doesn’t play another away series until 2013. Will we forget the Australia series in a hurry like England, and soothe the wounds with home victories? Or will the test team abroad in 2013 remember the hurt, the humiliation suffered by them and their fans? Will the tigers roar abroad? Introspection or indifference? Time will tell.