This question, “What is ailing the current Indian team?” cannot be answered in a single statement. There are many reasons.
Firstly, India lacks players who, on their day, are capable of single-handedly taking the game away from the opposition.
Secondly, the over-emphasis in preparing tracks that protect the home team batsmen against the fast bowling has cost India its spin bowling resources.
If a recent article from Aakash Chopra has to be believed, then India currently has no spinner of global pedigree. The current crops of Indian domestic players are thus all good at handling military medium-pacers, but falter against quality spin. Hence a spinning track, which would otherwise have been India’s strength, now seems to be its greatest nemesis. The problem needs a rethink towards the kind of pitches that Indian batsmen play on. After all what good are you, if you can’t cash in on your home advantage.
Reverting back to my first point, I believe the hastened retirement of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman has not helped India in anyway. The two brought more to the table than mere skills; they brought character. If we look at the past decade we would realise that the belligerent brilliance of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag was aided by the bank-like assurance and solidity Dravid and a Laxman gave to the side, no matter how bad the conditions are.
The last time India was troubled by a spinner was way back in 2007-2008 in Sri Lanka when Ajantha Mendis was unleashed as mystery spinner. But by the time the series progressed the Indian batsmen had unraveled his mystery and Mendis was no longer a threat. Even great spinners like Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Saqlain Mushtaq failed to conquer India and the Indian batsmen in the past. That is why it’s sad to see the current Indian team fail against Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.
The Indian team is loaded with one-day specialists who apply the same approach of overs-limit cricket to Test cricket. Players like Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh have not had a prolonged spell in domestic cricket, and that has seriously hampered the development of their techniques.
Geoffrey Boycott has repeated said that bowlers win matches, but if your batsmen are not up to the task, then no bowling attack can save you – forget winning. The innings of Dravid and Laxman in Kolkata 2001 was the one that changed the imagination of an entire nation and made people believe that we truly are world class and deserve to be the best.
India currently needs such characters, people who can bring in more than skills, people who can perform their heart out and yet remain humble enough to take up a new fight the very next day. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) needs a rethink about their strategies regarding Test match and domestic cricket played in India. A rethink over the kind of pitches, that would produce quality batsmen and quality spinners who can cash in on the home advantage, is urgently required.
But more importantly, team India needs characters, who can selflessly put their hand up and become the next Dravid, Laxman or Anil Kumble.
(Baiju Joseph is a Bangalore-based Junior Scientist at a Bio-Informatics firm who is deeply passionate about cricket and likes to bowl fast whenever he gets an opportunity to ply his cricketing skills)