In the late 1990s, Indian cricket was in a mess. There was the match-fixing scandal. Captain M Azharuddin’s captaincy had come to an end and he was replaced by the great Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin himself failed as captain. 1983 World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev failed as a coach.
There was gloom all around.
But through it all, we had one thing solidly with us: Our record in home Tests. The last we lost was to Pakistan in 1987. Since then we were virtually invincible at home.
Then in 1999, we lost to Pakistan in Kolkata in the Asian Test Championship. While that couldn’t be called exactly a home defeat, since the matches were played all across the sub-continent, it was a warning all the same.
That defeat happened despite India knocking down Pakistan for 185 runs in the first innings of the match thanks to a 5-wicket haul by J Srinath. India couldn’t even make it to the finals of that tournament.
But in the very next year in 2000, South Africa thrashed us 2-0 at home. India failed to cross 250 in any of the four innings it played. Our spinners failed to contain the South African team.
No South African batsman hit a century in the series, but thanks to a pure team effort on the part of the Opposition, the runs kept coming. We crashed to an innings defeat in the second Test, so hopeless were our batsmen.
But that was just the wake-up call that the BCCI needed.
John Wright was brought in as coach. He went on to professionalise the whole cricketing system in India, a process that yielded rich dividends for many years. Sourav Ganguly was made captain and brought aggression and a sense of belief into the Indian team.
We started winning abroad in Tests, there was the famous 2-1 victory over world champions Australia in 2001; we won the ICC Champions Trophy and peaked by reaching the 2003 World Cup final.
But it was all downhill after that. Ganguly rested on his laurels and started declining as a captain and India started declining as a team.
In late 2004 amidst all that, Australia beat us 2-1 in Tests. Ganguly led us in the first two Tests and it is alleged that he backed out of the third Test at Nagpur after he saw the greenness of the pitch.
That home defeat was the beginning of the end for Ganguly. Greg Chappell was brought in as coach and he tried to treat Indian cricket with his own brand of shock therapy. Ganguly was finally dethroned as captain and the Dravid-Chappell duo did see some success as we recorded 17 straight successful chases in ODIs.
We also won Test series on West Indies and England soil after ages.
The ODI 2007 WC defeat led to another shake-up and after that captain MS Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten ushered in Indian cricket’s greatest age ever.
But after the ODI WC victory in 2011, Indian cricket entered another dark age.
We got thrashed 0-4 in England and the BCCI did absolutely nothing.
We got thrashed 0-4 in Australia and the BCCI did absolutely nothing again.
Greats Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman announced their retirements on their own.
For the BCCI it was business as usual and there were also some statements in the press that now things would automatically become alright since we were playing mostly home Tests from now on.
We beat the weak teams of West Indies and New Zealand 2-0 each giving us a further sense of false security.
At the beginning of the England tour, many started talking of 4-0 and there were also cheeky ads on TV.
But India had been playing shabby cricket for too long and its greats had been failing for too long for us to take advantage of the situation.
So now India faces its third home Test series defeat in 12 years.
The first two defeats eventually led to a shake-up in the cricketing establishment.
So the question to be asked is whether there will be a shake-up this time too, or will the BCCI continue to bury its head in the sand like an ostrich?
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/