The reaction to the twin Test defeats to England in Mumbai and Kolkata has been so typical as to be amusing. Among all the voices of criticism, Dravid’s has been the most balanced and objective as he preferred to look beyond the defeats to the evil that is eating into the vitals of Indian cricket.
Dravid has rightly questioned the skills and ability of players coming up through a system that is a haven for mediocrity with our administrators turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to reality that is crying out for attention.
For instance, this year’s Ranji Trophy has seen so many centuries and batting debacles that they provide an exaggerated perspective of a batsman or a bowler as the case may be. In the event, when these “talented youngsters” progress to international level, they get exposed in a jiffy and Indian cricket is back to square one.
Dropping Zaheer, Harbhajan and Yuvraj only reflects a knee-jerk reaction to the setbacks that have exposed Indian cricket’s other prima donnas like Sehwag, Gambhir, Sachin, Dhoni and young Kohli all of whom have contributed as little as the trio that have been dropped. Worse still, the attitude of these “heroes” is to say that they are immune to anything and everything as they continue to live in their bubbles.
Dhoni is probably Indian cricket’s most stubborn and one-dimensional captain ever. He behaved like a spoilt brat after the Ahmedabad Test, clamouring for a spinning wicket. Clearly, Dhoni panicked as he realised that the Ahmedabad game contained enough signals to suggest that the England team was on the rise.
Sure enough, on a pitch prepared to his instructions, Dhoni and his team fared miserably in Mumbai and then failed to score enough runs in Kolkata where they were presented with a flat track on which a total of 500-plus was par for the course. Yet, the team fumbled and flopped before Ashwin ensured a fifth day formality while helping India avoid an innings defeat.
As much as I prefer that Sachin be left to decide on his future, the fact is that the legend is struggling. Forget the half-century in Kolkata, but under pressure, he is just not able to deliver. After all, he is the senior-most player in the squad and a mentor to most.
As such, he has to lead by example and not become an example of a fading star to be kicked around by couch potatoes screaming for his exit. Sad days for a man of his stature and surely, he does not deserve such an inglorious ouster, but he has to blame himself for the situation he is in.
Sachin’s famous contemporary Ponting read the writing on the wall and opted out while making an honest admission to his failing reflexes and value to the Aussie team. Punter still loves the game enough to turn out for Tasmania, something that Sachin too can do to mentor youngsters in Mumbai.
To revert to Dravid’s analysis, I agree that the IPL is as much to blame for not just change in the fortunes of the players, but also their attitude. The instant fame and riches that the IPL offers, has already sidelined a few talented youngsters, notably Uthappa, Rohit Sharma and their ilk. The spillover of T20 habits into Tests is very obvious in the manner in which Indians have been playing in the ongoing series. Is it any wonder that the spoilt brats are getting spanked soundly by Cook’s England?
As for the current set of selectors, I doubt if they have any courage to even talking to the senior players in the team who have been given far too much slack. Again, to revert to Dravid’s observation, the fitness of the seniors leaves a lot to be desired. All of them are rotund and overweight, slow in their movements that generally translate into cheap and free runs for the opposition.
To say the least, the present Indian team makes for an embarrassing sight. The collective performance has been as disheveled as the appearance of the players most of whom looked as though they just rolled out of the beds on to the field.
The point is that the commitment has been lacking and also the inability to stand up to pressure. Overall, a very dismal situation for Indian cricket, but with Pakistani team arriving later this month, the England series will be swept under carpet and quickly forgotten until the next drubbing!
Defeats abroad can be explained away to conditions available there, but at home, there is no place to hide, but when players refused to even acknowledge bad performance, then the warning lights flash. It is the choice of the Board and its selectors to either see or close their eyes. Unfortunately, it is more of the latter (and easier) option that the authorities seem to like.
So then, on to Nagpur for the fourth Test later this week and another defeat will certainly open a can of worms. One suspects that for some of the seniors, it is a do-or-die situation. No more excuses and it will be perform or perish.