I remember wholesale changes being made to the Indian cricket coaching set-up when India lost the final of the Champions Trophy in 2017.
That final was reached on the back of some impressive performances, and the loss in the final was a case of luck (remember Jasprit Bumrah’s no-ball?). On another day, India might well have won.
This time around, in the World Cup, India reached the semi-final as expected. But there's a feeling among the fans that any person within the Indian fraternity could have been the coach or captain of the team and made them reach the semi-final.
The real test, we all knew, was going to be the semis and beyond. And India failed at that exact juncture.
After such an abysmal performance in the semifinal, there should’ve been raised eyebrows, questions, and demands for justification from the captain and coach. Just as Anil Kumble was asked to step down as his contract expired after the loss in the final of the Champions Trophy, so should’ve Ravi Shastri.
Shastri’s coaching shortcomings are highlighted by his failure to find a half-decent number 4. Throughout the lead-up to the tournament, and even after its disastrous end, all discussions revolved around this massive gap in the team. Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav and Rishav Pant were all experimented with, but to no avail.
Then there was the catastrophic decision to send MS Dhoni out as the last recognized batsmen when the team needed experience in the early stages of the game. And another shocking decision taken at the World Cup was dropping Mohammed Shami after he took 14 wickets in four games.
Sure, Bhuvneshwar Kumar could bat as well, but that wasn’t his main purpose. He was supposed to take wickets; using his batting potential as a justification, and that too at the expense of Shami’s wicket-taking exploits, defies rational thinking.
It is the coach's responsibility to be proactive and plug big gaps in the team, and make all important decisions to ensure success. I don’t remember ever questioning Kumble in this manner. So if he could go out after reaching a final, why should Shastri stay?
I know it seems harsh, but that's how the game is now. England prepared themselves to win the World Cup, but India only 'sort of' did. And that’s where the problem lies.
Then there’s the question about captaincy. I am a massive fan of Virat Kohli and his batting, but his captaincy is not ideal. Two major tournament losses should’ve brought an end to his captaincy in the one-day format at the very least.
One only needs to look at Kohli's IPL record while captaining the Royal Challengers Bangalore to see that he doesn’t do well without Dhoni. I keep hearing people say that he doesn’t have the right team balance at RCB and therefore keeps losing. But who is responsible for selecting the team? He is as much as anyone else.
It’s the same reason why Dhoni is lauded for his captaincy – he chooses his players, and more often than not, they deliver for him. That's also the case with another Indian stalwart in Rohit Sharma and his Mumbai Indians team.
Teams are designed by their captains. And when they fail, the captains should be held responsible.
The recent news about a rift between Rohit and Kohli is an indication that all is not well in the camp, and something’s got to give. Rohit has proven himself to be a capable captain, and it would do wonders for the team if he is given charge.
I know it sounds almost wrong to question Kohli, but his batting exploits must be separated from his captaincy - much the same way as it was for another great, Sachin Tendulkar. Rohit should, without a doubt, be in contention for the captaincy going forward.
It’s been two weeks since the World Cup ended, and Indian cricket has not changed to better itself. I wonder whose loss that is.Published 28 Jul 2019, 02:30 IST