Sunday 9 December 2012 

Analysis: Indian Cricket In Meltdown

Analysis: Indian Cricket In Meltdown
Analysis: Indian Cricket In Meltdown
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

The thing about disasters is the element of surprise. It is often enough to raise the extent of damage. The difference that India's second consecutive Test defeat, to England at home, bears however is in the warning that has been sounded out for quite some time. Chetan Narula looks back at the Kolkata Test.

Even so, Eden Gardens now bears testimony to how Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team was shredded to bits. It reflects poorly, not only on the shoddy state of self-awareness in the powerful corridors of the BCCI as also on the many great victories and turnarounds that have been scripted at this glorious ground in the past.

For more than a year, after the 8-0 debacle in England and Australia, team India shadowed itself in the garb of transition. 10 Tests at home were a long run for the youngsters to find their feet. Only five matches have gone past, and two of them meekly surrendered. It is not defeat that troubles the common Indian cricket fan. They have seen worse. Instead, it’s the symptoms of a changeover gone awry that seeps out hope from among their hearts.

At Mumbai, India did not have a chance to fight back. Kevin Pietersen’s superlative innings and Monty Panesar’s natural pace mowed them down. In deep contrast, there is no particular moment wherein India lost this third Test. Every time England gained an advantage, they had the opportunity to fight back. That they didn’t plays heavily on the minds of the millions watching.

India lost the advantage of winning the toss and putting a tall score on day one. Day two saw them flattened to bits in the field, giving away too many easy runs, bowling too many bad balls. As Dhoni said after the match, "you cannot really blame the bowlers."

They did put in a big effort to restrict England on day three. But the big fault lies in the outfield, where the Indians were so sluggish that fielding coach Trevor Penney must have felt like being surrounded by sharks in the press conference.

It was defeatist mentality, in the first place, that saw him being sent to answer for the team. If they had sent a white flag instead, perhaps Alastair Cook and company might have had some mercy. Yes, you read that right. India were hapless in their own den, and it would have been kinder to just let them roll over and die.

It shouldn’t have been so, for something needed to give after that 8-0 massacre. That we are still waiting for the game’s administrators to open their eyes bodes ill for the overall health of Indian cricket.

If there is anyone in the current set-up of cricket here that warrants some semblance of sympathy, it is the new set of selectors. Krish Srikkanth’s panel, in charge for four long years, were so despondent in their work that the cupboard lies bare today.

There is no bench strength to talk of when you have legends of the game going out and there is a need of trying out at least two players for every position in the eleven. There are no new players to pick from when a must-win Test looms ahead.

It is the beginning and end of India’s problems. There is no third spinner to speak of and the selectors are forced to return to Harbhajan Singh or Piyush Chawla. There is a shortage of medium pacers who can bowl a threatening spell (or two) in each session of any given Test match. And the number six spot has been a revolving door since Sourav Ganguly departed the scene in 2008.

In this light the role of someone like Virat Kohli becomes highly important. He has been in incandescent form over the past year or so. In fact it hasn’t just been easy to watch, it has been easy to score runs.

The one time, an opposition has done some homework on him, cutting out his scoring, and challenging him to grind them out, he has been found wanting. Kohli has given his wicket away to soft and foolish shots five of the six times he has been dismissed this series.

It tells a tale when the openers are very edgy (but have bought some time) as is the middle order in the form of Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh. Cheteshwar Pujara cannot be expected to score runs every single time.

It is easy to talk about Tendulkar’s retirement. It always has been. Keeping aside for a moment the respect of leaving the decision to him, his departure will perhaps weaken an already disjointed batting line-up. Maybe that is not currently weighed in terms of runs, but experience is seriously lacking in this side if the Master hangs up his boots today. India needs him to grind his way through this struggle and steer them until South Africa next year, at least. The only problem here is that an impending calamity lies much closer.

All of this has formed a vicious circle that now surrounds Dhoni - and selectors, again - like haunting question marks. It is not that these players are not good enough anymore, no. It is the mindset that they have been trapped in for too long.

Despite knowledge of their own abilities, they have been unable to break these shackles of disappointment. When it was time to put an arm around them, perhaps there was no one present. Now, there is no one to fire away at them, jerk away at their collars.

Furthermore, there is no one to inspire them out of this deep rut. Duncan Fletcher stands a mute spectator as this disaster stands on the cusp of a meltdown.   

© Cricket World 2012

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