New Delhi: It’s a mystery how a team that had won six one-day series in a row in 2013 has managed to beat only minnows in the last three months. But that’s the way India’s fortunes have turned since the tour to South Africa in December.
The team’s recent record has led former cricketers to question the players and the coaches, with Sunil Gavaskar in particular hitting out at the team’s work ethic and the rigidity of the management in playing with the same XI and not giving the other players in the squad like Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishwar Pandey a chance, alleging favouritism.
“India’s work ethic has been pretty abysmal. It has let the team down. They have not practised well and there can be nothing like optional practice,” he said.
“[Regarding changes], the only thing that comes to my mind is that there is a worry and probably a fear that if these guys do well, what happens to our favourites in the team? This is what breeds complacency, guys know, ‘kuch bhi karoon, team main hoon’ (whatever I do, I’m in the team).”
For India’s batsmen who have a reputation of being flat-track bullies, it’s probably no surprise that the faster, bouncier pitches and the world’s best bowling attack proved to be more than a handful. But the problem with that theory is that India had done well in alien conditions to win the Champions Trophy in England in the middle of 2013 with virtually the same team.
As regards the bowlers, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has maintained that they’ve been struggling since the rules changed in October 2012 and allowed one less fielder to save the boundaries. The series at home against Australia showed that they were struggling to concede less than 300 in every game.
Whatever be the case, the statistics tell their own story — that most of India’s players have lost form at the same time — beginning with the annihilation at the hands of South Africa in the first ODI in Johannesburg on December 5.
Rohit Sharma, who was coming off a glut of centuries against Australia and in the home Tests versus West Indies, has managed an average of 29 in the 12 matches since getting worked over by Dale Steyn and Co. Ditto Shikhar Dhawan, his opening partner, who averages 28.50 in 11 games.
The failures of the openers have put pressure on the middle order, and only Virat Kohli, with 511 runs including two centuries, has been equal to the task. Ajinkya Rahane has failed to make the most of his chances, while Suresh Raina’s horror run has led to him being dropped from the side altogether.
Dhoni’s replacement for the Asia Cup, Dinesh Karthik, has managed just 50 runs in four matches.
Among the bowlers, Mohammed Shami has excelled as a wicket-taking option with 29 in 12 matches, but his economy rate is a woeful 6.69. R. Ashwin has ceased to be a strike bowler, with 11 wickets in 12 games, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been ineffective.
With a crucial tournament like the World Twenty20 just days away, Indian players certainly need to get their act together.