So India's overseas Test debacle has been promoted from 0-8 to 0-9. (It almost became 0-10 had South Africa not shut down the shutters in the first Test at Wanderers.) However what has been all the more sad in the recently concluded series is that unlike what happened in England and Australia, India was in a position of strength throughout the series but kept squandering it away.
In the first Test, India was at a stable 264-5 and they collapsed to 280. South Africa on the other hand recovered from 144-6 to 244 to narrow the deficit. Then at 315-2 in the second innings we were in a position to totally shut out our opponents from the match but we collapsed again and gave them a probable victory target of 458.
At one stage the equation during the South African chase read: 16 runs required off 21 balls with 4 wickets in hand. You might even back Bangladesh to win at that stage. But our opponents went on the defensive and we got out of jail for free.
But the chase was a curious one. There were no genuine dismissals by bowlers and freak ones seemed to be the order of the innings. There were two run outs. Three batsmen dragged the ball on to their stumps. Jacques Kallis was not out and DRS might have turned the match on its head. Finally Hashim Amla left the ball and it ended up crashing on the stumps!
It was more of the South African batsmen giving all their wickets away rather than the Indian bowlers taking them.
The second Test at Durban was even more depressing. India were at a commanding 198-1 at one stage. Rarely does a team lose from such a position. At 199-4 South Africa came roaring back. India recovered to a much better 320-5 and one would not have expected for two collapses to happen in a single innings. But that is exactly what happened when the tail put up a measly 14 runs.
After that India totally fell apart. South Africa made 500 runs and in reply our openers got off to a really bad start. Neither could they make quick runs nor could they keep wickets in hand. When Virat Kohli fell for a shocking decision, everyone was left asking the question why the BCCI has been vehemently opposing DRS. Kohli has been in the form of his life and could have managed to draw the Test had DRS been there.
In the end we capitulated quite meekly and our disastrous outings on foreign Test tours continue. India will have to make great strides forward if they are to even compete in England let alone win a series there.
While Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay were among the runs, captain MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma had totally forgettable outings. Even the all-rounder batsmen in the form of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja failed to impress. (Jadeja’s 6-wicket haul was a bright spot, but he will have to improve on his Test batting).
India’s pace attack is also under scrutiny. Ishant Sharma comes up with one brilliant effort once in a blue moon and leaks runs and goes wicketless in between. Forget five-wicket hauls, in the last five series, he has taken 5, 5, 4, 7 and 5 wickets in the entire series respectively.
With Zaheer Khan also retiring any time soon, youngsters like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav have to be given many more chances.
What is more troubling is that the Indian team seems to have to keep going back to the basics. While we have been falling consistently to pace attacks, we are doing no better against the spinners too. When England last visited us, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar had all the Indian batsmen in knots.
In the second Test in South Africa too, Robin Peterson took 4 wickets. We can’t play spin, can’t play pace and the pace attack lacks sting. Coach Duncan Fletcher sure has a job on his hands and has been totally ineffectual in guiding the Indian team on foreign Test matches. India was far more competitive before he arrived on the scene.
To make matters worse, we failed to win a single ODI too for a completely wasted tour.
One only wonders what the current 0-9 tally will be after the England tour next year!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/