Laxman (left), Dravid (centre) and Tendulkar... rebuilding could hasten the exits of some of these legendary players © Getty Images
Laxman (left), Dravid (centre) and Tendulkar… rebuilding could hasten the exits of some of these legendary players © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

An innings defeat, they said, was the only worse possible result left for India to attain. And they duly did so at Edgbaston. Never a happy hunting ground for India and certainly not for this battered outfit. James Anderson sealed a quick end to the agony for India after Alastair Cook brought back memories of Graham Gooch’s triple century against Mohammed Azharuddin’s side in 1990. They didn’t just lose the match; they caved in and surrendered meekly. As the English press noted wittily, Ci the sheepish sheepdog would have shown more character than India.

 

Knives will be out now, if they aren’t already. After all, this is the first time India has lost three consecutive matches of a series since the debacle in Australia in 1999-00. And with each defeat, far from fighting harder and putting up a brave face, India have only crumbled more quickly and proved easier for England to crush. Far from wanting more to restore pride, they seem to badly want out. England have grown more and more in confidence and seem to know since their great escape at Trent Bridge that they cannot lose to this Indian team this summer.

 

To give credit where it’s due, this is a mighty English team, at least at home and in Australia, if the recent edition of the Ashes are any indication. Their batting and bowling are both solid and the latter often approaching the lethal in conditions that well suit their style. However, the margin of defeats suggests more than just losing to a worthy opponent, in which there can be no shame.

 

India have proved more inadequate and been outplayed more comprehensively than what even hardened members of the Barmy Army would have imagined. They have appeared painfully listless and seem to find even going through the motions a chore. Consider here that even the beleaguered Sachin Tendulkar-led side of 1997 did not lose all three on their disastrous tour of South Africa and the Australian team which handed them a grand clean sweep in 1999-00 was certainly a stronger side.

 

At this stage, it is no longer possible to insist that alarm bells shouldn’t ring because for a top- ranked team to lose three successive matches by humiliating margins is most certainly alarming. It indicates that even Gary Kirsten could not alter the essentially star-oriented nature of Indian cricket. India continues to rely more on star performers to win and less on preparation and effort. With the stars thoroughly exhausted and so not up for a fight, India have crumbled.

 

The calibre of a team that stole a squared series in South Africa could not have transformed so drastically in a matter of months for the worse. The team must have had something going for it then to return with a share of the spoils for the first time from a series in South Africa.

 

Thus, the problem is essentially India’s inexplicable insistence on going into tours unprepared and relying on improvisation to get there. When the musician is too tired, his improvisations fail to convince and inspire and cannot conceal his lack of practice and so too this uninspired side has folded when faced with a hungrier, better prepared opponent.

 

It may now not be necessary to even call for the heads of the Big Three, which has understandably been awkward given their stellar contributions to Indian cricket over the years. It is possible that they may not see many opportunities to attain glory in this side anymore and quit. And that may finally pave the way for a painful but long overdue transition. Even if the youngsters haven’t fared well in the few opportunities given to them, they represent the future of Indian cricket, for better and worse, and must be embraced.

 

The time may also be ripe to investigate just why Indian cricket needs sleeping beauties anymore. Our spin cupboard is bare and our pace bowlers only find the pitches at home disheartening. Batsmen are shaken out of their comfort zone abroad and left to dance to the whims of chin music. Perhaps, India could look at preparing harder, bouncier pitches at home. Even if it does not spark a pace bowling revolution, it would at least make our batsmen more comfortable with handling deliveries that get above the waist.

 

The bigger problem to attack, however, would be the lack of hunger. I had questioned India’s motivation when they had let an opportunity to win slip by in the third Test of the series against West Indies. I had said that when the cycle turned, India would regret not sealing more comprehensive series wins during their stay at the top and they must want more badly to win to secure their ranking.

 

The cycle turned rather quickly, in the event. India still have the opportunity to arrest the slide and get back to winning ways. But people will now begin to ask if they want to do so badly enough.

 

(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.)