Team India has lost the hunger for success

Last Updated: Sat, Jan 05, 2013 09:17 hrs

The decibel level of the angry Indian cricket fan is reaching a crescendo. It was bad enough to lose back-to-back Test contests in England and Australia by clean sweep 4-0 margins, not to qualify for the finals of the tri-series in Australia, not make the title round in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh and not make the knock-out stages of the World T20. 

But then we were assured that things would be very different when the team played at home. After all, the Indian team is the master of all it surveys in their own backyard.

Losing at home is a rare enough event to attract considerable attention. But right now, the Indian side is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It is the subject of harsh criticism and for once the outburst is not unwarranted. This is bound to happen when you go down both in Tests and limited overs cricket at grounds such as the Wankhede stadium, Eden Gardens, MAC stadium and so on. 

When the Test series against England was lost the experts offered soothing words like ''wait till the limited overs contests start.'' That was because India were No 2 and No 3 in the ICC rankings even as they had slid to No 5 in the Test rankings. 

However adversely the Indian Test squad had been affected by the retirements of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid it was reckoned that the ODI and T-20 teams would be able to at least somewhat brighten the gloomy outlook and give the Indian cricket fan more than a ray of sunshine.

What they have got instead is another inky dark cloud. The Indians now are going down in both the limited-overs formats and given the fact that they are the reigning World Fifty50 champions, won the World T-20 Cup not too long ago and play a lot of the game's shortest format - thanks to the IPL - the result have been absolutely unacceptable. 

Sharing a T-20 series with England and Pakistan and going down in the ODIs to the latter are results that have driven us all to despair. And very soon England will land for a five-match ODI series. Right now the Indians just do not seem to have the confidence level to take on Alastair Cook and his men. 

What is worse they seem to have lost the hunger for success, the will to fight and the dedication and the commitment that should come naturally when you are representing the country.

Even with the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar from ODIs the Indians on paper have the skill, experience and firepower to demolish any opposition, at least at home. A look at the career stats against most of the players and one could feel smug about India's chances. More to the point however there has been a decline in the powers of the established stars in recent times and this will be confirmed by a closer look at the figures.

The Test team is going through a transitional phase thanks to the retirements of several stars over the past few years. Now it appears that a serious rebuilding process had to commence in the limited-overs squad too. And if there are no ready retirements, then some of the established players will have to be eased out and new blood brought in. 

In the process there may be some initial setbacks but in the long run such a far sighted policy will yield dividends. The selectors should have the 2015 World Cup firmly in mind and plan accordingly. The first signs whether the selection committee is willing to take a long term view will be known on Sunday when the team is picked for the ODI series against England.

There is talent aplenty around and the selectors should just make the right choices. More important, they should not be afraid to wield the axe without fear. The mood is one for change and Sandeep Patil and his team would do well in keeping this in mind. Dropping the out of form stars is not going to be an unpopular move and in any case the selectors are not around to win popularity contests. The time has come to take bold steps in the long term interests of Indian cricket.

At a time like this my mind goes back to another selection committee chairman who was far sighted enough to take similar steps. When he took over as chairman in 1968, Vijay Merchant had definite plans about the future belonging to the youth. For the home series against New Zealand and Australia in 1969-70 he gave the big break to any number of youngsters while bypassing the seniors. 

The immediate results were far from encouraging as India almost lost to the Kiwis and went down to the Aussies. In the face of much opposition Merchant persisted with his policy and the result was the greatest phase in Indian cricket with Ajit Wadekar and his squad winning a Test series in West Indies and England in 1971 for the first time. The young players he blooded included Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, Chetan Chauhan,Gundappa Viswanath, Ashok Mankad and Eknath Solkar.  

A lot has also been said and written about the captaincy. There are two schools of thought. One is to retain MS Dhoni while the other is to lessen his burden by giving the captaincy in at least one format to someone else. My own view is that one cannot blame only the captain for debacles. 

A captain is as good as the team under his command and Dhoni alone cannot be held responsible for the continued failures of the players. In any case he can certainly command a place in all three formats on form and in the absence of any clear contender it is best he is persisted with especially as he has not let the responsibilities of leadership and the pressures of successive defeats affect his performances either as batsman or keeper. 

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