All that's wrong with Indian cricket
At the end of Day 2 of the 3rd India-England test, it’s England who are firmly on top. This was quite possibly the series defining day and India were just not good enough.
When the series started, every single Indian cricket fan, including myself, was harbouring hopes of a 4-0 whitewash. After all, England were spin bunnies and there was no way they could put up a fight in sub-continental conditions, against the mighty Indian team. But deep down I had this feeling that England were undoubtedly the better team. India were a team in transition, carrying some non-performing individuals and hoping to cash in on home advantage. Man to man, England were better in every department. Barring the first test match in Ahmedabad, that fact has come to light.
England outplayed India in the spinning conditions of Mumbai, and now on the flat deck at Kolkata, the Indians have not fared any better. The Indian batsmen and bowlers have looked completely out of sorts against their English counterparts. A miracle permitting, India might still go on to win this test match, and the series. But the Indian team has problems aplenty which need addressing at the earliest.
Let me begin with the batsmen. Sehwag and Gambhir have not looked their dominant selves over the past 2 years. Sehwag scored a ton in the first match and Gambhir has a couple of half centuries. But they definitely don’t look capable of getting back to their best, and change is warranted at the top of the order. Then there is the Sachin Tendulkar conundrum. The less said about it, the better.
Kohli has looked out of sorts in this series. He has not been playing his natural game, and seems to be slowing the pace of his game only because it is a 5 day game. He should look to express himself the way he does best and not get bogged down.
Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni have had their moments, but both will be found wanting in overseas conditions. One can infer that among the 7 batsmen, only 2 seem to fit in India’s long term plans.
The bowling department has been another sad story. The spin twins of Ojha and Ashwin were expected to wreck havoc on English batsmen. Zaheer Khan was expected to shepherd the young quicks. But things have panned out quite differently so far. Ashwin has looked like a shadow of himself. The bowler who wrecked through the comparatively weaker New Zealand and West Indies batsmen, has looked out of ideas against a quality batting unit.
Zaheer Khan is another player resting on his laurels. Ojha has been pretty good, but tends to get too defensive at times. Umesh Yadav is an excellent prospect, but needs to be given the ball much more often. Harbhajan Singh’s comeback performance in test cricket was a disgrace to his former self. The current Indian bowling lineup looks vastly deficient.
The players do form a major part of the problem, but the system should be the one giving out solutions; which has most certainly not been the case. The way the selection committee handles things seems anything but professional. When was the last time the selectors had taken a tough call? If this was the Australian team, would Sehwag, Gambhir, Sachin and Dhoni still be make the cut? Would an exceptional talent like Rahane be given the cold shoulder for this long a time?
Why was Raina dropped after not performing in just two matches, when others who had not performed in 2 years were not even taken up for discussion? Why is Praveen Kumar not on the radar any longer? On what basis was Harbhajan Singh drafted back into the squad? The Indian selectors seem more concerned about saving their jobs, than choosing the best 15 players in the country for the Indian team.
Post the 8-0 debacle, the changes that have been brought into the Indian team have been forced and not initiated by the selectors. I am reasonably confident that had Dravid and Laxman not announced their retirements, they would have still been a part of the squad. The only reason I can think, of why selectors have continued making such howlers, is fear of backlash from the Indian team’s fan base.
That brings me to the next issue, the Indian public. We are a hugely emotional lot and big-time hero worshippers. Most of us are not just fans of a player, we are fanatics. There have been many instances of an individual’s success being celebrated much more than the team’s win. The celebrations that ensued in India post Sachin’s 100th ton is the biggest such example.
Most of us had ignored that India had lost that match against Bangladesh, and hence the chance to qualify for the finals of the Asia Cup. The humiliation of the 4-0 whitewash in England was forgotten post India’s 5-0 drubbing of England in an inconsequential ODI series. We possess an extremely short term memory. We must realize that this is as much a problem as the system and the players.
We have gone from the highs of a World Cup Victory and being the No.1 ranked test team, to the depths of potentially losing a series against England on home turf, in less than 2 years. Indian Cricket has been spiralling down fast. Dubious selection decisions have led to the current players taking their place for granted and genuine talents not getting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This in turn has affected the performance of the Indian team as a whole. Drastic changes are needed for the team going forward.
Dark days lie ahead for Indian Cricket. With tough series against Australia and South Africa in the coming year, it seems like the Indian cricket fan will have to wait a bit longer for some cheerful moments.
Here is hoping that going into the future, we get to see much more rational decision making from the Indian selection committee and the system in general. Let’s hope that the good players are always on the radar, and no one is given an extended run purely based on their past records. Also, as an Indian Cricket fan, hope we acknowledge the fact that the team’s success is more important than an individual record. Here’s hoping that the Indian Cricket team gets back to performing like the champion team it was, at the earliest.