India collapsed in England in 2011. Since then, there have been three home Test series to boost up averages for the batsmen: the weaker sides of West Indies and New Zealand along with a team that was in decline before it visited Indian shores: England.
Despite that, take a look at the averages of five of India’s most experienced batsmen from the beginning of the England tour last year:
Yuvraj Singh (26.1), Gautam Gambhir (27.8), Sachin Tendulkar (32.8), Virender Sehwag (33.3) and MS Dhoni (34.8).
Dhoni is our Test batsman among the seniors? Is this what we have come to?
But what are all the senior batsmen even doing in the team? There was a phase when Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were all averaging in the fifties. Even Dhoni was averaging at 50+ for some time as captain.
While most of the above perished on foreign soil, the case of Tendulkar is even more curious. While he was the second highest scorer in both the Tests series in England and Australia, he has totally collapsed on home soil. He has failed to make it to the Top 3 Indian batsmen of a home series for quite some time now.
When New Zealand visited us in 2010, Sachin was the seventh highest batsman for total runs scored by Indians in the Test series! That has not been an aberration. When the West Indies toured us last year, he was fourth. With New Zealand early this year, he was sixth. In the current England tour, he stands at sixth position again!
If the bottom half of batting non-performers have to be axed, then Sachin has to go as he cannot even bat on Indian soil any more.
There is another serious loss of form. When Sachin began his career, he once went for four Test series without getting a series average of above-50 in the first 3 years of his career. That proved to be an aberration and later in his career his worst slumps saw that being stretched to at worst 2-3 series.
The current England tour is his fifth straight Test series without a 50+ average. If he plays for the upcoming Australia tour, then it would be like giving him his sixth chance! This at a time when Ravindra Jadeja has hit three triple centuries and Ajinkya Rahane has the highest first class average by any Indian in ages.
There was a time when Sachin used to hit a huge amount of centuries in a year. In 2012, he only has two half-centuries! That’s it! Even if he scores big in the final Test, it would be better that the BCCI considers it as his retirement innings and sends him off in style.
Captain MS Dhoni’s Test captaincy continues to be in a free fall. Before England 2011, his win-loss ratio stood at a brilliant 15-3. Now it stands at a much lower 5-9.
Both Dhoni and Tendulkar are the highest paid cricketers in the world and the sponsors are heavily dependent on them. Is that the reason both of them are untouchables?
Zaheer Khan, the spearhead of India’s pace attack, hasn’t had a 5-wicket haul in more than two years. Of course India’s bowling attack is a separate issue altogether. Every newcomer gets injured and goes out of action for some time, a problem which no-one has been able to sort out in the last 10 years.
Harbhajan Singh, despite playing in 99 Tests, still finds himself out of the team. He along with many of the seniors would have been retired by many boards by now.
Rarely have India’s seniors failed so badly all at the same time.
We lost 0-4 once on foreign soil. The BCCI did nothing.
We lost 0-4 again on foreign soil. The BCCI did nothing.
(Dravid, our best performer in England 2011; and Laxman, who still had age on his side, went out on their own.)
Now that we are down 1-2 in a home series, the selection committee has made some half-baked changes. Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan have been dropped from the squad. Bhajji wasn’t in the Playing XI at Kolkata anyway and as far as Zaks is concerned, pacers as it is play a game of musical chairs all the time.
So the sole change has been the dropping of Yuvi, who wasn’t even a complete part of the 0-8 debacle, appearing only in patches.
So in effect, none of the seniors have been touched. If they manage a 2-2 at the Nagpur Test then the selectors will probably maintain a status quo.
If we go 1-3 down, then will they make widespread changes? Who knows?
In the last three series, our best performances have come from Cheteshwar Pujara, Pragyan Ojha, Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.
The writing is on the wall. The thrust is on youth.
We need a brand new Test team. It is not just about Sachin any more. A lot of seniors have to go to pave way for fresh blood. The BCCI needs a long-term game plan instead of coming out with half-baked measures and running on an ad hoc basis.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/