From January 2003 to June 2011, India played 47 foreign Test matches. For those who kept saying that we were tigers at home and lambs abroad, our win-loss record for that period was a commendable 19-11.
That’s our best ever streak in overseas Tests.Most people would have thought that India had turned it around for good. This is also the reason why we finally became the ICC Test Champions.
Then in a freak event we lost 0-4 to England in 2011. Whenever any such results happen in a professional setup, a lot of heads roll. However the BCCI pretended as if nothing happened. So it was not surprising that 0-4 was repeated in Australia.
Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman walked into the sunset and the BCCI heaved a sigh of relief. They would have to do nothing. But nobody asked the serious question.
How could this triumvirate (with a whopping 37,000 Test runsunder their belt between them and who had been performing consistently for their entire careers) suddenly go bust over a period of 8 Test matches?
Add Virender Sehwag to the list and we have 4/5 of India’s most prolific Test batsmen of all time.
How can the hard work of 8 years get undone in 8 matches?
We will never know how that happened because the BCCI was not interested. Neither seemed coach Duncan Fletcher who has looked totally clueless at such times.
In fact the last time India lost 0-4 in a Test series was way back in 1991. While this brand new team has been drawing more matches and there was the glorious Lord’s victory, life after 0-8 hasn’t been that much different.
In the three series in South Africa, New Zealand and England, our win loss record stands at 1-4. So 0-4, 0-4, 1-4 totals to 1-12, our worst overseas performance in decades.
Ideally the first to go should have been captain MS Dhoni. One can think of very few Test captains in the world who survived after a 0-4 let alone a 0-7 (Sehwag was captain in 1 match in 0-8).
However the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor is the only thing that has saved him. While the ole greats relinquished their captaincy one by one (Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Dravid, Anil Kumble), the next generation couldn’t also last: Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir.
In the current lot, Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane have just come to form while Cheteshwar Pujara is struggling in England. The heir apparent Virat Kohli has totally flopped in this series and things are so bad that even if we lose the series 1-3, then Dhoni still stays.
Ishant Sharma is the senior-most player in the team after Dhoni but one can never ever think of him doing a Kapil Dev. That leaves Fletcher.
He has completed 3 years and one wonders what exactly he has brought to Team India.
India won the ODI World Cup in 1983 and since then have been doing consistently well in the shorter formats of the game.
We also have been doing well in Tests at home as shown by our dominance in the 1990s.
That just leaves overseas Tests.
The golden period of overseas Tests for India can be credited to coaches John Wright and Gary Kirsten. Under them Team India performed well in all formats on all pitches.
Apart from India, Fletcher has been coach of England for the maximum length of time and he should know all their weaknesses and how to beat them. However that has been our biggest failure.
England won a Test series against India in 1996 and had to wait 15 years after that to win when Fletcher was coaching India.
And now we are looking at out third successive Test series loss against England!
The need of the hour is for a new coach for Team India with the specific brief of improving Team India’s overseas Test performance.
India desperately needs another Wright or another Kirsten. If the BCCI continues to put its head under the sand like an ostrich, then we stand to keep losing more foreign Test series in the years to come.
Ideally it’s time for the Dhoni-Fletcher era to end in Tests and since Dhoni is indispensable, the BCCI should deal with the other half. Fletcher must go.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.