Another game and another defeat as India conceded the three-game ODI rubber against Australia on Sunday with yet another spineless performance.
One would have thought that being a top team, they would improve by leaps and bounds and come back strong in the second ODI but they played worse than before.
Indian bowlers were the biggest culprits on Sunday and it seemed they had no control over what they were doing, and after the Aussies scored 389 the visitors were just playing catch-up. And captain Virat Kohli totally failed to inspire his team, and that makes one wonder if India is heading the Royal Challengers Bangalore way. All style and no substance!
The voices backing Rohit Sharma to take over limited-overs captaincy duties from Kohli are only to get louder following this latest 51-run defeat. And they have every reason to resent and demand change. From all appearances, Kohli’s captaincy, just like his batting, has lost the spark.
In the first game, when India allowed Australia to score 374 there were ample signs that there was something terribly amiss in the bowling unit. With the exception of Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja, the Indian bowlers looked mechanical. Navdeep Saini and Yuzvendra Chahal were particularly taken to the cleaners by the Aussie batsmen.
Big teams do notice serious shortcomings and take action without any delay in the wake of such embarrassments. Not in the case of India though as Kohli went ahead with the same bowling unit in the second game; with the same trusted duo of Saini and Chahal — mates from RCB. He could have easily gone for T Natarajan who would have brought variety with him being a left-armer. He had bowled well in the IPL and could have come in handy in the death overs having made a name for himself in unleashing yorkers one after the other.
Former India pacer Zaheer Khan rightly pointed out that Kohli appears to have a set frame of mind, and follows the same pattern with his bowling changes game after game, irrespective of the situation of the match. There is no willingness to do something different especially when the chips are down.
Even while batting, India fell victim to Kohli’s lack of creativity and adventure. Their approach was not to win, rather not to lose by a big margin. And to their credit, that was achieved. Pun intended of course!
What top batting line-up plays on the back foot from the get-go chasing 390! Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Kohli all showed they are not reliable when the asking rate is on the higher side. Fans would remember how a young Kohli smashed a world-class Sri Lankan bowling attack to smithereens more than eight years ago in Hobart. India needed 321 in 40 overs to stay alive in the Common Bank Series and Kohli (133* off 86 balls) played with such conviction and gusto that they chased down the target in just 36.4 overs. Well, that was more than 8 years ago and it seems neither has he the same adrenaline rush nor the same skills.
KL Rahul, best of the Indian batting lot of late, and even Hardik Pandya should have been sent up the order ahead of Iyer but those kinds of decisions are made by brave, creative team managements desperate to win. Kohli and Ravi Shastri don’t appear desperate for sure, rather all the time have on their face this philosophical expression that screams: it’s only a game and one team wins and the other loses. No big deal.
The same attitude cost India a World Cup trophy last year and by the look of things, not much is going to change in the future too unless the BCCI takes notice of these serious shortcomings at the leadership and management level and ring in some major, defining changes.
Also by the author: