The rout is complete and England can be commended on a superlative performance on Indian soil. Beating India comprehensively in their own backyard, they achieved what no other English team has done for the past 28 years – win one of the toughest away Test series by conquering the spin demons. For an extended period of time in the series it appeared that England were the home team and India were visiting.
All thoughts of a 4-0 whitewash evaporated in Mumbai, when it appeared that India and England were playing on completely different pitches. One horrendous session in Kolkata ensured there would be no great escape, like the one scripted by VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid against Australia. To be fair to England, they came prepared and adapted well to the conditions, something that was lacking when they toured Sri Lanka and played Pakistan. Their preparations ensured that the victory would not only be a bitter pill for India to swallow, but the manner in which they would take apart the aura of Indian invincibility at home, would be the icing on the cake.
In all of this, the man who has been under severe scrutiny (other than Sachin Tendulkar) has been the Indian captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. It started with the demand for spinning pitches, the spirit of which was vociferously debated in the press. A grumpy Prabir Mukherjee, severely admonishing Dhoni publicly (something no curator has done in recent memory against an Indian captain) and the “alleged” rifts in the team with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir stoked the fire. Former selector Mohinder Amarnath added the fuel by claiming the selectors had wanted Dhoni to be dropped as captain. Finally when the series against England was lost, Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth decided it was time to muster up some courage and call for the captain’s head.
For quite some time, Dhoni as captain has not been upto the mark (“stale” to some). Almost every time India lost there was an excuse. However the manner in which India was being defeated was most concerning, yet no action was being taken to sort matters out. If Sehwag and Gambhir were having performance or attitude issues, they should have been dropped and Ajinkya Rahane or Manoj Tiwary should have been tried. How much worse could it have got? By continuing with an abysmal Zaheer Khan till the third Test, it just showed Dhoni’s lack of leadership or options. But the fact of the matter is, every leader has a shelf life and Dhoni’s seems to have expired long ago.
Dravid continues to back Dhoni, saying there is no viable alternative, and he might be right partially. However that argument does not hold water any more. It is time for India to try a new captain, maybe Virat Kohli. He might relish the challenge and even succeed. But you would never know unless you try. Part of the blame should be put on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as well for creating such a situation where no viable alternative seems to exist. It’s also time for the selectors to take a tough stand and get rid of non-performing player, irrespective of how iconic they are.
Amidst all this drama, England seems to have an upper hand going into the T20 matches. The Indian fan will be hoping for a fightback to get back some of the pride of playing at home