What went wrong with a team that came into the semi-finals undefeated, winning seven straight games in a row?
What can explain the abject display of this Indian side once they came up against their bete-noire of the last five months? Was it another case of déjà vu?
First, the Australians scored 30-50 runs more than our batters could easily achieve. A score of around 280 was chaseable against their strong bowling attack. Once the Aussies went past the psychological barrier of 300, it was an uphill struggle. Dhoni missed a trick by not letting Umesh Yadav bowl the last over. He was the only one who looked like getting wickets in his final spell and a couple of wickets more could have restricted the Aussies to a less substantial total.
The loss of Shikhar Dhawan began the slide. The left-handed opener was looking good for yet another ton but threw it away in a moment of casual lassitude. Rohit Sharma has scored runs but all of his big scores have come against the lesser sides. The Mumbaikar once again failed to step up to the plate when it mattered. How different is this Sharma from the one who made his debut in 2007-08? Have the years left their scars?
Virat Kohli disappointed. And much as Dhoni tomtoms Ravindra Jadeja’s abilities with the bat, the ‘all-rounder’ has no business being in the side if he cannot average at least a decent 30—both at home and away. Sure, he has three triple centuries in domestic cricket but if that’s the reason he’s in the side, then he should be batting further up the order, not with the tail.
The Indians were probably looking at chasing 328 in chunks. A score of 100 in 20 overs, 200 in 35 and 260 in 40 (power play) would have left them chasing less than 70 in the final 10 overs. It was not to be.
Dhoni’s unwillingness to experiment against the minnows meant that the Indians went up against the Aussies with a closed mindset. What works all the time will fail some day. What then?
Indian fans have a lot to cheer about. At the outset, no one expected this side to travel this far. Winning the trophy would have had their cup of joy overflowing but it would not be a true reflection of the capabilities and form of this side.
Overall, a fair result.
The carcass that is Indian cricket is laid out on the coroner’s slab. The post-mortem begins afresh.
It all seems to be an exercise in futility.
Every serious Indian cricket lover, ex-cricketer, administrator or even current cricketer knows what ails Indian cricket. But not one wants to make a concrete effort to alter the status quo.
The ‘chalta hai’ attitude comes to the fore.
“All this will change when we play in India on our dust-bowls” is the constant refrain.
And that is how it has panned out. The die-hard fans are consoled by wins eked out at home in conditions that suit flat-track bullies.
And the sponsors are happy all over again and our cricketers are worshiped as demigods once more.
It is a combination of several factors.
There exists a paucity of quality fast bowlers to take advantage of conditions abroad because Indian pitches do not encourage them. They prefer to be medium fast rather than bowl their hearts out with little reward.
Except for Mohali, there are very few pitches that offer the fast bowler any help. It is time that the BCCI drew up a plan to create sporting pitches that will dot all the Test venues in India. It should be a mandate dictated from the top.
Imran Khan wished his team to win abroad and at home in all conditions. He institutionalized a culture of encouraging raw pace as well as facilitated pacy wickets on the north-west Indian sub-continent.
There are no excuse for saying that it cannot be done. Look due north to our ‘Pathan’ neighbours for inspiration.
Fast, bouncy wickets at home would also make sure that our batters adapt quickly to English, Australian or South African ones.
Secondly, the Indian team selection especially for overseas tours has to be such that core players are constantly challenged by the fringe ones. No one should be allowed to rest on their laurels. A place in the side has to be constantly earned. There should be no passengers in the chosen 16.
Fast bowlers should be groomed and rotated so that they do not succumb to injuries.
Additionally, certain batsmen and bowlers with special or limited skills should be set aside for a specific format. You would expect a Ravindra Jadeja or a Stuart Binny to be a useful asset in one-dayers or T-20s. But expecting them to play stellar roles in Tests is wishful thinking. Similarly, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma are well-suited for Test cricket only.
A system that rewards format specialists is the need of the hour. The BCCI could look into that.
Yes, the Indian team would do better if they had all-rounders in the side. But the unfortunate truth is there is none of the calibre of a Kapil Dev or even a Manoj Prabhakar. The cupboard is bare.
The Indian Test team is thus better off with six front-line batsmen and five strike bowlers.
The series in Australia will show if the lessons learned from the unmitigated disaster in England have been absorbed.
If not, the Indian cricket fan can expect his cup of woe to overflow. Certainly not a good augury for the World Cup to follow!
Ishant Sharma at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ishant Sharma came to the party and how! Since he made his debut in 2008, the lanky pacer has disappointed more often than not. So much so that Indian fans came to believe that his name was not Ishant but “I shan’t”.
But on a Monday afternoon, the Delhi native bent his back with the old ball and destroyed the much-vaunted lower half of an English side in rebuild mode. Joe Root and Moeen Ali may have hoped to lead England to a much needed morale-boosting victory, especially for beleaguered skipper Alistair Cook.
But it was not to be. Once Ishant Sharma started bouncing them, it was all over bar the shouting.
Were the English recalling the pummelling they received at the hands of a venomous Mitchell Johnson in the recent Ashes series down under? Or did they feel they could pull off a Ravindra Jadeja as well? Whatever the reasons, the spectators were bemused to find a procession of English batters making their way back to the pavilion. The English plan to counter-attack merely provided catching practice for the Indian fielders.
“I have seen fewer hookers in Soho on a Saturday night.”
India had its first win at Lords in 28 years.
The similarities between MS Dhoni and Kapil Dev keep piling up eerily.
India go into the next three Tests leading 1-0. They will hope that they can emulate Kapil’s Devils of 1986 and clinch a memorable series win. This Indian side does not look very strong on paper, lacking experience at the highest level. But most members of the squad have put their hands up and performed when needed, unlike the side of 2011.
A captain is only as good as his team and , right now, Dhoni’s boys are making him look so much better than the recent past.