India: A one trick pony?

cricket blogs for Yahoo Cricket Columns


Oh how quickly and quietly they went ... down.


Lost the series, sorry WHITEWASHED. Lost the number one ranking...not lost England took it and declared they are the best Test team by some distance and deserve to top the rankings. Dhoni and co must be thanking Mr. Anna Hazare for taking the spotlight away from them after being repeatedly humiliated by England in the four-Test series and looking completely out of their elements.


India's fall from grace is not even funny ... but we didn't see it coming like this, did we? With the likes of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar still around it was expected that our tryst with the No.1 raking will continue for some more time - if I am not exaggerating for at least another couple of years until 'The Big Three' retire. But the manner in which India approached the series from the start disproved the fact that we went there as champions.


That 300 was India's highest score (once) during the series tells us how sadly Dhoni and his team went down without a fight. The only Indian batsman to maintain and enhance his reputation was Rahul Dravid, who scored 461 runs at an average of 76.83 in the series. That he was the only one in the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up to cross the 300-run mark in the series is a reason a spectator at The Oval held out a placard on Day 4 that read 'Rahul Dravid vs England'.


England all-rounder Tim Bresnan's hard-hitting statement, "It'd help if the Indian fielders didn't have their hands in their pockets. It's not that cold. They need to look interested and show some desire. If you don't want to be here, go home," describes how uninspiring the summer's cricket has been for India (Dravid apart).


In six innings, England batsmen piled up 2,809 runs which included three double centuries (Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell), four centuries (Matt Prior, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan and Kevin Pietersen) and 11 half-centuries (Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior twice, Stuart Broad twice, Kevin Pietersen twice, Eoin Morgan, Tim Bresnan twice, Andrew Strauss). India on the other hand only managed 2,044 runs with three centuries from Rahul Dravid and nine half-centuries (VVS Laxman twice, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar twice, MS Dhoni twice and Amit Mishra.) I was glad Sachin Tendulkar did not get his 100th international century on the last day of the Test series. He has never looked quite so at sea and unsure as he did during the entire Test series.


India were bowled out each time with our highest score in the series being 300 runs - during the first innings of the fourth Test - and the lowest being 158 runs during the second innings at Trent Bridge. Most of India's runs were scored through boundaries, while the Englishmen ran well between the wickets and converted singles to doubles and doubles to threes apart from hitting the boundaries and the occasional shot over the ropes. So much for our famed batting line-up's strategy in the series.


India did bowl England out twice during the Trent Bridge Test but lost the match by 319 runs and Stuart Broad took a hat-trick too. I can't remember being more disappointed with a Test series. There are not enough adjectives to describe our pathetic show in this series.


The body language of Indian players - besides the bowlers, spare'em - right from the beginning showed they were a long way away from being adequately prepared for English conditions - physically and mentally. The two Andys (Flower and Strauss) had plans for each of our batsmen starting from Abhinav Mukund to Ishant Sharma while the story was quite the opposite in the Indian camp.


After yet another disastrous day at Edgbaston on Day 2, out-of-touch opener Gautam Gambhir enlightened England with, "It is very easy to be No.1 but very difficult to sustain it." Well, if that was the case our top players should have toured West Indies and started getting re-acquainted with facing short deliveries. Why did Dhoni not play the tour match against Somerset? Why were Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina even considered for Tests (in England) given the fact that they are clueless against bouncers? Not to mention most Indian batsmen's inability to adjust to the swinging and seam-friendly English conditions. Why don't we have an all-rounder in our team? Why and how was RP Singh selected suddenly out of the blue?


That Indians struggle against short-pitched deliveries is no news. I have been hearing it since I started following cricket and our batsmen have done little or nothing to overrule this damning criticism of their technique. Instead, coach Duncan Fletcher blamed English conditions for India's batting failures. "Our guys are finding it difficult at the moment to handle the swing and seam. They have practised and there's not much more they can do. It's about getting out in the middle and putting things into practice," Fletcher explained. We know that Mr. Coach, you don't need to be an Einstein for that.


Coincidentally, the next 50-over World Cup is in Australia and New Zealand, and India will go into that tournament as defending champions amidst heightened expectations from their supporters. That is assuming India continues to do well at least in the shorter formats because by the looks of things, the attention of the BCCI and most Indian players seems to be directed towards the slam-bang versions of cricket. However, that still doesn't take away from the fact that Indian batsmen will have to work hard to overcome their weaknesses against short bowling and adapt to different playing conditions with am emphasis on adequate preparation.


Blame IPL, BCCI or whoever you want, the Test series has revealed some very deep flaws in the Indian side and the Indian cricket board, which is the richest in the world would do well to take a leaf out of Cricket Australia (CA)'s book. CA appointed a review panel headed by Don Argus to look into the reasons behind Australia's humiliating loss in the Ashes series; that panel has now come up with a list of recommendations and most of them are set to be implemented by the Australian board. The BCCI should logically do something similar because if they don't conduct a post-term of the whitewash in the Test series against England, India's slide in the longest version could be rapid.


Post Script: David Cameron's message to the team - Keep going. Don't do an India.