India's squandered opportunity against England
The recently concluded India-England Pataudi Test Series proved to be more of a farewell to Alastair Cook than the mouth-watering contest it was billed to be.
The scoreline of 4-1, is more than a vindication of the fact that India was thoroughly outplayed by the opponent. Whatever be the soundbites provided by the Coach Ravi Shastri, the damning indication of how bad India played will remain with the huge legion of fans that give devotion and dedication to go through a whole series of Tests.
This article is a fan-view of frustration that has now become all too familiar for the Indian fans when the team tours abroad. The No.1 ICC Test Ranking now does not sit pretty atop, causing admonishment of fans of cricket across countries as well as the uncomfortable squirms about how bad our team has been as always in an away tour.
Why was this series a must-win?
No touring team from India had the number of riches in the bowling department. Dhoni who was previously blamed for all Test failures would've blindly lead this team without any thoughts of insecurity, as his contention always was that the Indian team couldn't take 20 wickets in the Test matches proving to be his deficiency.
Kohli had, however, a nice department of fast bowlers, who were luckily fit all at the same time. This is such a rare occurrence, to see all the bowlers of India outperforming each other, Ishant Sharma, proving to be the spearhead he was destined to be, troubling all batsman, Bumrah the speed gun, Shami the wrecker-in-chief.
One would pay anything to see all of these hardworking bowlers fit and well together and deliver performances that befit a world no.1 Side. Even MS Dhoni had remarked once that the Indian bowling team was now able to take 20 wickets in every Test match, greatly increasing the options of the captain. But then, what happened? Why did we lose and why did we lose in such ridiculous fashion?
Why were the fans made to endure another round of humiliation from their fellow cricket playing nations, calling Indians flat-track bullies?
Why the no.1 rank of Test Cricket now sits not that comfortable with the Indian cricket team with people calling ICC a farce for its points system?
Reasons for a 4-1 loss and the resultant humiliation of the Indian Team
Many reasons exist for the death of Test playing ability in the Indian Cricket team of which I am going to list out in what my opinion is the main reasons for this devastating, humiliating, unpalatable loss to an England cricket team that was not at their prime.
Lack of Preparation
When Murali Vijay hit a 56 and 100 in a county match after being dropped from the Test side, it became evident how bad the preparation was from the Indian cricket team's side. The richest cricket board among ICC Nations had declined the option of holding more practice matches and had gone in for a shortened preparation.
By the time the Indian batsmen finally realized that this was not the right way to hold the bat, they were already 2-0 down in the 5 match Test series.
No Proper Batsman
In the near distant past, India boasted of 5 batting legends.
Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag.
The batting department in the yesteryears was extremely crucial for India to win a test-match as the temperament shown by the batsmen overshadowed the bowling performances. Our bowling side was pretty weak while touring. When you analyze the 5 greats and the way they batted, it's quite evident what were their strengths.
- Technical Competence
- Match Winner
The current Indian batsmen now are nowhere near these gentlemen who graced the game. The common thread around these people were, the Indian batsmen genuinely believed that their performance was paramount and they were the custodians of the pride of Indian batting. Indian batting team doesn't have such stars now.
Flamboyance has taken precedence to cool, calculated and resolute approach with the wickets being thrown at cheaper discounts to England.
We've no settled line up. The openers slot is always a toss-up between players, who are selected by the virtue of who is not playing badly. It took KL Rahul 4-5 Tests to get a century and even then we lost the match. Imagine how bad our batsmen, called the best batting line up have become fragile and disposable commodities?
Given a chance Pujara, Rahane, Vijay and Dhawan, should've not been counted amongst the top batsman to represent a country of billion people. None of them has been consistent, been able to take the game by the scruff of the neck and have not been able to deliver in overseas conditions or live pitches. I will not consider a 100 here or there, which is secured so that 4 other batsmen would never live to see their name in the Indian cricket team list.
It was only fortunate that Hanuma Vihari at least got a chance to play due to his impeccable first-class record. Karun Nair was kept languishing in the dugout even without a chance. Gone are those days when India could chase a total of 194 and 245 in Tests. What happened to persistence, perseveration and the ability to block the opposition into submission remains to be seen.
Not much of a coach than a cheerleader
The Indian Cricket Team Coach doesn't inspire confidence. Everyone seems to agree to the fact that Shastri is in, only because Kohli does not want another head above his to direct/dictate performance. His lines/utterances as if nothing has changed or everything is ok, even if 4-1 is the series final result line, makes it beyond disbelief as to what lengths can Mr. Shastri accommodate the whims and fancies of Kohli. Shastri was primarily a batsman. The Indian bowling performance improvements or the lack of can be squarely put on the bowling coach and support staff. Then, what of the repeated batting failures?
Virat Kohli: The Failed Captain
Right now India does not have any player capable to stand up to Kohli and advice him. His punishing work ethic and commitment towards the game can't be questioned. But, what could be questioned is the inability to figure out everything by himself. For, a Test match is like Chess. It requires a lot of planning and seizing the situation when presented with opportunities such as when India had England on the mat, only to see Sam Curran take up the whole situation.
Losing toss is ok. But, not picking Jadeja on a track where Moeen Ali ran rampage last time around wasn't. History repeated itself while India was found wanting for not learning their lessons.
India has a great captain. But India doesn't have a good coach who can advise this captain. Last time I checked, Anil was kicked out of the team for this very reason. Kohli now needs to be held accountable for decisions of having no oversight. There needs to be a healthy modicum of respect or limits to the powers of a Captain. He can't be the coach as well.
- Sack Shastri.
- Bring back Anil Kumble for the Australia Test-Series.
- Axe Pujara, Rahane, Dhawan and Murali Vijay. Look beyond them.
- Continue with Hanuma Vihari, Karun Nair and Rishabh Pant.
If India doesn't win a Test match in Australia against a weakened Australian team (one without David Warner and Steve Smith), I will personally not follow Indian cricket for good time to come.