One wonders whether international cricket has witnessed such a twist of fate before. The World Cup victory a few months ago marked a new beginning for the Indian team. People spoke of a new era of dominance which would see India match up to the invincible Australians, the domineering South Africans and the ascending England team.
This was a high profile tour where arguably two of the world’s best teams would fight it out in tough conditions. Yet, India failed to provide any competition and could not win a single international fixture. In the final ODI a glimmer of hope was provided when Ian Bell was dismissed but India’s spineless bowling allowed the debutant Bairstow to steal the game from India.
It would perhaps be unfair not to offer any sympathy to India for losing Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, their two best bowlers of the past few years, at the start of the tour. Yet, why has the rich and powerful BCCI not prepared any replacements for these cricketers? Whereas bowlers like Ojha and Mishra have made an impact at international level, they are not consistent and often do not look any more threatening than Harbhajan. As for fast bowlers, the less said the better. It is pathetic that India cannot produce consistent fast bowlers. What is the reason for this?
India had to face unfit senior players for at least half this tour. Agreed that the likes of Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar, Zaheer and Harbhajan are big players, but more was expected from Raina, Jadeja and Dravid in the ODI series. In the Test series, apart from Dravid every batsman underperformed. The story with India’s fast bowlers remains the same- they just could not make an impact.
Dhoni in his post match presentation in the final ODI remarked that Munaf Patel is a crucial bowler at
the death for India. Somehow, using the word “death” in the same sentence as Munaf Patel seems very fitting because Patel’s bowling generally kills India’s chances of winning matches. One can say that India was unlucky with so many injuries on this tour but, sometimes you have to make your own luck and not having any able replacements for senior players is the fault of the BCCI at the end of the day. Plus, what good were senior players in the Test series anyway? Sehwag was a total failure, Tendulkar was nervy, Gambhir was not noticed at all and Laxman could not make any meaningful contribution.
It is difficult to remember any series where so many of India’s weaknesses have been exposed. It cannot be a coincidence that so many of India’ mighty batsmen just failed collectively. There is surely a problem with mindset or ability to play an organised and methodical opposition. Plus, how come Dravid was able to score runs in the Test series? And how come Dhoni played so well in the ODI series if there is a collective problem? The truth is that India lacks in the planning department and they were not mentally prepared to handle a dominant and disciplined opposition. Unless India works hard on its mindset it will suffer similar defeats when touring South Africa and Australia in high profile series.
Apart from planning and gaining in mental strength, India also needs to produce some quick bowlers. It is ridiculous that Indian bowlers can’t muster more than 80-83 mph consistently. When you analyse India’s lacklustre bowling you are minded to believe that the World Cup was won by Zaheer Khan’s and Yuvraj Singh’s bowling. I think someone on this blog mentioned this recently and it is probably true. It is laughable though that a part timer like Yuvraj can be expected to do the job which Harbhajan, Munaf, Nehra and RP are meant to do.
In a few months India has gone from being champions to minnows. This is high time for some introspection for the Indian think tank and this is the time to shun excuses relating to tiredness and injuries. The bottom line in India was not good enough. The BCCI needs to consider whether IPL is good for Indian cricket in the long run. India needs to get a specialist fast bowling coach who is more experienced and skilled than Venkatesh Prasad because apart from Zaheer Khan the Indian fast bowling unit is a laughing stock.
India needs to remedy these problems before they play South Africa and Australia at home grounds. If they do not, the “IPL, injury and tiredness” excuses will not work any further and they will join Pakistan at the bottom of Test rankings.