MS Dhoni got the pitch he wished for during the Mumbai Test and the Indians toiled their way to a first innings total of 327. That score was considered to be enormous, but the Indians were caught in their own act © Getty Images
Before the Ahmedabad Test commenced, it wasn’t naïve to believe that India would make mincemeat of the visiting English team. A whitewash is what a large segment of the Indian supporters wished for as a fitting reply to what their side was served when they toured England last year. The more cautious ones went on to predict victory by a margin of either 2-0 or 3-0, but very few were willing to back the English to win at least one Test. That feeling was reinforced when India won the first Test, thanks to some exceptional performances by Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara and Pragyan Ojha, by a whopping margin of nine wickets.
Despite the win, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was quick to express his displeasure over the kind of wicket, since he felt that his bunch too could have been at the receiving end had they not won the toss. ”I don’t even want to see this wicket. There wasn’t enough turn and bounce for the spinners. Hopefully in the coming matches we’ll see the wicket turn, right from start, or as soon as possible so that the toss doesn’t become vital,” Dhoni said. He got the pitch he wished for during the next Test at Mumbai, and the Indians toiled their way to a first innings total of 327. That score was considered to be enormous, but the English were yet to reply.
Alaistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen plundered the attack, whereas Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann ensured that the Indians were caught in their own trap. Despite Ojha and Pujara’s valiant efforts, India never clicked as a unit and eventually lost. The general notion that India, like England, were invincible at home no longer held true, and hence the result came as a rude shock to many. Nevertheless, a few of the Indian players felt that there was no real reason yet to press the panic button. Gautam Gambhir, who earlier believed that the English would struggle on Indian soil, backtracked by saying, ”So what if we have lost a home Test? Not as if we have never won at home. It’s not that we have lost the series.”
With India losing the third Test, the question to be asked is: How long will the players cling on to excuses and remain in a state of denial. Despite having the best of the conditions at their disposal, the Indians are finding it hard to make ends meet. It’s now evident that the problem lies not just on seaming tracks or bouncy wickets, but in the lack of ability to come good against formidable opponents.
Players struggling to wrestle their way out of a lean patch continue to find a spot, thereby blocking the entry of youngsters hungry to prove a point on the big stage. It’s that desperation and zeal that’s been instrumental in the success of Pujara and Ojha this series. Infusion of young blood is now a necessity. The likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary and Pankaj Singh are still on the fringes even when there are a couple of players in the current line-up they can readily replace.
Agreed, India is currently a team in transition and a few defeats are inevitable, but to not make use of the available options, and to stick to the old routines that have stopped producing results, is not sensible.
Pankaj Singh’s helplessness was evident when he said, “I have picked 150 wickets in the last four domestic seasons and there have been so many others who have been given an opportunity. Why I am not presented with an opportunity? What more do I need to do to seek attention of the selectors?” However, India’s bowling coach Joe Dawes is still confident that Zaheer Khan – whose decline since the 2011 World Cup has been alarming to say the least – and Ishant Sharma could still be assets. The failure to see beyond these two is surprising.
On the other hand, the English had no hesitations in dropping their vice-captain Stuart Broad, who despite having a fantastic year was axed due to a few poor performances. Such an attitude by the head honchos makes it clear that a place in the side is only based on merit and none should take that for granted. It’s their ability to take bold decisions that has played a big role in their ascendancy. Also, the fact that they seldom make excuses speaks volumes of the attitude they play the game with. Not one player complained when they lost to Pakistan a few months ago. Instead, they learnt from their mistakes and now find themselves in a position of dominance.
India too has good resources at its disposal, but it must be willing to make some bold movies and, more importantly, realise that there is an issue that needs to be immediately addressed.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)