India struggled on their tour of England in 2011, they lost again in 2014. Three years hence and they stand on brink of another series loss that could well end up turning into an embarrassment.
At Lord’s on Sunday, India lost by an innings and 159 runs. The loss was their ninth in 11 Tests played in England since 2011.
Under seven days of cricket, Virat Kohli and his men have been outplayed by an English side which were never touted to be runaway favourites. Lack of technique and resolve from the Indian batsmen has gone a long way in determining the sordid results for India that now sees them 2-0 down in a five-Test series.
“We need guys who say give me a tough situation and I will pull the team out. It’s all in the head,” said Virat Kohli after the game while ruing the lack of resolve among the ranks in his team.
At Lord’s, India struggled and how. Batsmen fell like nine pins. The conditions were tilted in favour of the bowlers but none of the batsmen even came close to combating the swing that James Anderson and Stuart Broad were producing.
England declared nearly an hour before lunch. Around an hour after tea, India were bowled out. No batsman looked in a position to see off at least a part of the day. That this trend has continued unabated since 2011 raises serious doubts about the team’s technical abilities when it comes to overseas conditions.
Indian cricket has grown a lot since 2011. The team become world champions for the second time in that year, the Indian Premier League grew in stature bringing with it a windfall for cricketers from all corners of the country. The Cricket Board has flourished in the intertwining years earning record bids for media rights of Team India matches.
One was also under the impression that this progress had found its way onto the field as well. Under the leadership of Kohli, India became the No 1 Test side in the world, however much of its success has stemmed from victories achieved at home. At Lord’s, this fact was quite clear.
The team management led by coach Ravi Shastri has failed to address the technical flaws that plague the batsmen. At no point have we accepted that combating the swinging delivery is a concern that needs to be addressed. The powers that be are content by letting the successes earned on tailor-made pitches at home hide the flaws that emerge from an overseas assignment in testing places like England, Australia and South Africa.
There seems to be a systemic flaw in the way the Board, the team management and players are perceiving success. For a team which occupies the top two spots in all three formats for much of the year, innings defeats, be it in home conditions or overseas should be a strict no no. Heads should roll after the kind of performance that was witnessed at Lord’s.
All members of this team earn well, are provided with the best of facilities through the year and have a loyal fan base that adores them just because the don the India jersey. The sense of responsibility, though, seems lacking. The mindset can only be changed by accountability. Tests hardly seem to be a priority. Success in overseas Tests is even further down the pecking order, it appears.
The lack for preparation for the ongoing tour only underscores the lack of importance given to the series. The team management chose to play only one tour game ahead of the series and played it more like a training game rather than playing it competitively as a curtain raiser for the marquee series.
It was only Kohli’s heroics after two lucky breaks that kept India in good light during the first Test, others in the batting order fell well short. The India skipper, weighed down by a back problem, could not replicate his gritty knock at Lord’s, only to lay bare the incompetence of his team-mates and their lack of confidence while facing the moving ball.
Heads need to roll. Some members of this team have been given extended runs despite below par performances only on the basis of solitary knocks scored months ago. The likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan have pretty much shown on this tour that they are either mentally not up to the task or are not applying themselves as well as they do in games at home.
Better planning needed
They have been part of the national team set up for many years now and have hardly been consistent. Members of the top teams in the world cannot have such a shoddy track record. A return to the domestic fold will do them a world of good. They are no longer young for the demotion to affect their confidence. In any case they are professional sportspersons and should be promoted or demoted on merit.
It is a sad reality that these players are the best in the country for the positions that they hold in the team. Their lack of technique to combat swing is glaring and speaks volumes of the training habits that have been inculcated in them in the last five years.
Compared to overseas engagements, India’s home season has ballooned in the past few years. The IPL further keeps the players landlocked in the country. None of these players are allowed to even play in T20 Leagues abroad.
No player in world cricket spends as much time in their own country as an Indian cricketer. India might be the centre of world cricket, but it has meant that Indian players are stuck in the country without much exposure to outside conditions.
This side with its talented set of players deserve better management. Their past performances show they are more than capable of winning matches for India. Their progress, though seems to be stunted by messed up priorities of the powers that be.
With the likes of Rahul Dravid looking after the emerging talent in the country and Sanjay Bangar helping out the senior team, there is no dearth of accomplished individuals who can direct India’s players in the right direction. The problem lies with the goals that these players have been set by those running the show.
One cannot just say Tests are the pinnacle of the sport and not give it the importance, thought and preparation that it commands.