By Madan Mohan
Even BCCI’s de facto brand ambassadors Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri could not mince their words, hard as they tried. A capitulation, an abject surrender, is how they described it. Shastri called for a clear vision as to how India was to go about getting back the No.1 ranking. And when that duo runs out of pretexts to sugar coat India’s performances, you know you have witnessed a watershed.
Four times they turned up and all four times got a pasting they’d want to forget in a hurry. In the dying moments of the last Test match at Oval, India finally showed pluck in patches. They managed to take the Test almost to tea on the fifth day, though not without a little bit of help from the Rain Gods. But it was not long before Amit Mishra and Sachin Tendulkar’s resistance unravelled, and subsequently the innings as such. Before you could begin to dream of a draw and hope that the team had finally found its mojo, reality bit hard. Enter a lower order collapse and one was left to contemplate scenes of the English team celebrating a well-deserved whitewash.
India have visited English shores five times since the 1986 series win. Prior to this series, they had lost two series, squared one and won one. But you have to go all the way back to 1974 to witness a drubbing much similar to this. Eerily, India had won their previous Test series in England in 1971, just as the 2007 series win arrived after more than 20 years. Ajit Wadekar’s reputation as captain was irreparably tattered after that annihilation. Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have to pull some rabbits out of the hat to avoid a similar fate.
Eventually, the semblance of spine they showed on the last two days of the series could not mitigate their humiliation and rightly so. There was to be no fairytale script for what is likely the last visit to England for master blaster Sachin Tendulkar. He could not save the team from defeat and he fell short of his 100th international century for good measure.
India had been too insipid for too long to save themselves the blushes. Their ignominious fate had been sealed when the man once nicknamed the Sherminator, Ian Bell, plundered them for his maiden double ton. Having watched the seamers take centrestage throughout the series, Graeme Swann did the honours on Days Four and Five and finished with six wickets in the second innings. Word was that the Indian batsmen looked at Swann more as an opportunity than a threat. Opportunity to commit hara kiri? Incredibly, the series seemed to afford England the opportunity to scale unprecedented heights and India to sink to unfathomable lows.
If any opportunity has emerged from their hapless submission to slaughter in England, it is to set right many wrongs. BCCI, please take note, No.1 is not child’s play. Without a well- formulated strategy and meticulous execution of it, India will struggle to get back the No.1 ranking and struggle to hold it for very long if they do. This tour has exposed BCCI’s appalling injury management, its utter failure to put in place any succession plan and its apathy towards adequate preparation and practice in the run-up to a series played in conditions that do test subcontinent players severely.
India are not as inadequate as this tour has made them look like and they have not been suddenly found out after all these years. BCCI’s myopic management of the team and the players’ unwillingness to confront the establishment and get their way have conspired to make the unthinkable a reality. So, as much as I found the apparent absence of spunk in the players’ performances disturbing, my sympathies are at least partly with them. It is unlikely that having sunk the Indian team headlong into an abyss, BCCI will take up any ownership for the catastrophe. More likely, heads will roll and incriminating words will be tossed out. And in spite of Swann’s 6 wicket haul, India will bank on a home series win against all odds so that all is forgotten.
Going into the last day of the match, I could not say I badly wanted India to avoid a whitewash. They were being served just reward for their ‘efforts’ in my view. But I wished that one man’s brilliance would not go down the drain. It was sad to see Rahul Dravid’s resurgence amount to nought for one of the very few occasions in his entire Test career.
If his words are any indication, the man himself is nursing some measure of hurt. At the presentation, Michael Atherton asked him if he could tell them what were the things that went wrong for India in the series as one of the experienced players in the team. His one-line response was that it would take half an hour. I think that’s more eloquent and more damning than all the words of criticism I may have penned for this website through the series.
(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)