BCCI needs to understand the reasons for the abysmal show and plot corrective measures © Getty Images
India showed remarkable grit and gumption to save the first Test and win the second Test against England. Vincent Sunder analyses how a team in fluent run lose the plot completely in the next three outings.
The curtains have finally come down on the 2014 India-England Test series, much to be relief of the long-suffering Indian cricket fans. Statistics need not necessarily convey a complete picture, but data from this series provides for some pointers.
The last five innings that India batted saw 733 runs scored off 246.5 overs, during which 50 wickets were lost. An average lower than 150 runs an innings, and less than 15 runs per batsman. Of the 733 runs, 291 came from off five innings from the blades of Ajinkya Rahane (52 not out at Southampton), MS Dhoni (71 at Old Trafford & 82 at the Oval) and Ravichandran Ashwin (40 and 46 at Old Trafford).
In the first Test at Trent Bridge, India scored 848 runs in the two innings and it featured a big hundred from Murali Vijay and seven scores of 50 plus. The last wicket added 101 runs contributors being No 9 and 11. On perhaps the most challenging wicket of the series at Lords’, India weathered the bowling storms scoring 637 runs in the Test, and played aggressive outfield cricket to notch up an incredible win against all expectations.
How did a side that showed remarkable grit and gumption to save the first Test and win the second Test lose the plot completely in the next three outings? What caused this catastrophic capitulation in the last five innings that India batted? In a matter of a week, did the entire psyche of a winning side undergo a complete u-turn? If yes, what caused it? Did the Ravindra Jadeja/James Anderson issue demoralise the side completely? Or, did player take their place for granted and didn’t put in their best effort? It is hard to accept the last argument — there may be some laggards, but in these days and times, it is difficult to accept a theory that players have taken their places for granted. Or, indeed, is that the reason?
Did this ‘long” five Test series take it’s toll on the players? Was the toll physical or mental? If either of these are reasons, then none from the side deserve to be playing cricket. Did superlative swing bowling annihilate our batting? If so, how do we explain the eight wickets for 129 runs at Southampton, and four wickets at Old Trafford that were taken by Moeen Ali? Fear definitely didn’t cause the debacle against pace, for this line up had decent scores against the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and others some month’s ago. Was it then totally down to technical incompetence against seam and swing?
Should we question/blame the coaching staff? Duncan Fletcher has been praised by no lesser a cricketer than Jacques Kallis and by former England captain Nasser Hussain for his insights, intelligence and his valuable inputs as a coach. Was it then a case of the horse being taken to the water but it refusing to drink? Or did the coaching staff hang all through on the backsides without a care on what was transpiring in the last five innings of this series? Were Fletcher and company dealing with a bunch of prima donnas?
If we want to place the blame on T20 cricket, how did the likes of Vijay, Rahane and Dhoni do well with the bat? The patience, temperament and technique that Vijay displayed in the first five innings was remarkable for a batsman known for his aggressive approach in the shorter version of the game.
Questions galore and no answers will be straight-forward; debates and theories can rage endlessly. It is only the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that can perhaps find answers if it makes a honest attempt to find the real reasons for this inexplicable change after going one-up in the series. And there should be some definitive reasons for this demeaning debacle and utterly spineless performance in the last five innings.
Unless someone is disturbed by this loss in the BCCI hierarchy and cracks the whip, we may never see positive change.
What certainly was evident as contributors to the defeat, aside from the batting disaster and pathetic catching, was a defensive mindset in the field. The playing XI, the bizarre choice of bowlers in certain game situations, the non-utilisation of bowlers, field settings, a strange reluctance to not attempt batting order changes… there were many aspects where the followers just couldn’t understand the logic or rationale behind the field actions.
There were definitive field performances, or non-performances, that let the side down. Alastair Cook being dropped at 15 by Ravindra Jadeja on the first morning of the 3rd Test is perhaps the most accepted reason for the series turning on it’s head. The well-set Rohit Sharma and Rahane getting out to injudicious shots in the first innings of the this Test, and Vijay getting run out in the second innings were incidents that had a big impact on the outcome of the game. These however are things that happen in this game. Vijay dropped a sitter to reprieve Alastair Cook in the Oval Test and then came up with a stunner at slip that any brilliant slip catcher would be proud of. The game is a known leveler.
However, the BCCI would do well to understand the reasons for this abysmal show and chart out the corrective actions that are needed — either systemic or personnel related — players or support staff. Unless someone is disturbed by this loss in the BCCI hierarchy and cracks the whip, we may never see positive change.
How much has this mauling scarred the side will be known after the first One-Day International between India and England is played out next Monday.
Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014
(Vincent Sunder aspired to play Test cricket, but had to struggle to play gully cricket! He managed a league side to title triumph in the KSCA tournaments. He was debarred from umpiring in the gully games after he once appealed vociferously for a caught-behind decision when officiating as an umpire! After two decades in the corporate sector, he became an entrepreneur with the objective of being able to see cricket matches on working days as well. Vincent gets his high from cricket books and cricket videos and discussing cricket)