In the upcoming series between India and Australia, the visitors are clearly the favourites, as the hosts still find themselves in the depths as far as their Test form is concerned. During the 0-8 overseas debacle, our batting totally collapsed. What was also worrisome was our pace attack’s total inability to take regular wickets from those fast pitches.
Then last year our home bastion fell in our series with England. A 1-2 home loss could still be brushed aside had it not been for the total failure of our spinners. The attack looks pretty weak after the retirement of the legendary Anil Kumble.
In this series, Harbhajan Singh will either return to form or retire. R Ashwin has totally failed against the Aussies on their home turf and with England recently. Pragyan Ojha was the only person who showed some fight.
The final nail in the coffin was the Indian batsmen’s inability to play against foreign spinners. One simply has to wrack his brains to go in the past for a similar pathetic performance. Graeme Swann picked up 20 wickets and Monty Panesar 17. This is all the more astonishing considering the fact that greats like Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan have struggled on Indian soil in the past.
This failure continued when spinner Saeed Ajmal emerged as the leading wicket taker in the subsequent India-Pak ODI series, which we also lost.
So this is the report card in the last couple of years: Our batsmen have failed against pace. Our batsmen have failed against spin. Our fast bowlers have failed on fast pitches. Our spinners have failed on spinning tracks. Our captain and coach have also failed.
It’s not a pretty picture and there’s not much to hope for. But whenever Indian cricket has reached rock bottom, there always has been a revival.
After the match-fixing days of the 1990s, the Sourav Ganguly-John Wright duo transformed Indian cricket. We won the ICC Champions Trophy and became a consistent team in foreign Tests.
After they crashed, the Rahul Dravid-Greg Chappell duo shone briefly. We had that record 17 consecutive run chases in ODIs and won Tests in England and the West Indies.
We crashed again and the MS Dhoni-Greg Kirsten took us to the top in all formats of the game. 2007-11 might well be our greatest era ever.
But we crashed yet again. Going by conventional logic, it is time for India to rise up from the ashes yet again. The only downer is that we neither have a new captain nor a new coach. One wonders whether the Dhoni-Duncan Fletcher duo have any final tricks up their sleeves.
Fletcher will look to go out on a high. Dhoni will try to consolidate on his terrible leadership form and hope to begin a second innings with his captaincy. If he fails yet again, then the selectors may be forced to make Virat Kohli the captain for the South African tour.
The second point of hope will be the fact that the India-Australia rivalry has always been special. In between the 0-3 of 1999 and the 0-4 of 2012, the series’ results between the two read: 2-1, 1-1, 1-2, 1-2, 2-0 & 2-0, which translates into a 9-6 in India’s favour.
So even by adding the whitewash of 2012, it’s still a neck and neck 9-10 for India-Australia Tests in the new millennium. India will be desperate to forget the last whitewash and renew this tough and intense rivalry.
Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have retired. Gautam Gambhir has been dropped. Sachin Tendulkar is way past his sell-by date. Even Virender Sehwag is looking like a shadow of his former self.
So the chances are that the great moments from India, if any, will come from newcomers.
Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar are our in-form Test batsmen. This is their chance to cement their places for the future and get a chance to prove themselves on foreign soil when we visit South Africa.
Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja will be itching to get enough chances to prove themselves on the highest stage. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashok Dinda will be looking forward to Test debuts with Zaheer Khan not being in the reckoning from the moment.
One hopes that these youngsters give many more magic moments which the India-Australia tours have been full off.
Though the situation looks quite bleak, Team India has a habit of surprising their fans when one least expects them to. Let’s just hope this is one of those times!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/