As more than 1.2 billion Indians celebrated their nation’s 68th independence day, 11 others haplessly surrendered to their erstwhile rulers on the cricket field.
August 15, 2014 could now well be remembered as the day India’s hopes of being buoyed by their new generation of cricketers came crashing down and plunged deep into the ocean.
When Sachin Tendulkar had retired in November last year, Indian fans looked ahead to the future with mixed feelings.
They were losing their favourite son and the last of the golden generation of cricketers who had taken the team to the pinnacle of the sport.
However, the talent, character and pluck shown by the next generation, spearheaded by the likes of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Shikhar Dhawan, had left enough reason to be sufficiently optimistic about the future.
The whitewashes suffered in England and Australia in 2011 were a thing of the past. This new, young and aggressive Indian team wasn’t going to let that happen again.
A spectacular home season had allayed any fears, even though their next four tours spread over 12 months were all away from home, culminating at the 2015 World Cup Down Under.
Nine months later, India are back to square one and firmly rooted to it.
The process had begun in South Africa in December, when MS Dhoni's men let slip a glorious chance of going 1-0 up in the two-match series at Johannesburg.
The shambolic capitulation for 148 runs at the Oval on Friday, four less than what they managed a week ago in the first innings at Manchester, England, put the nail firmly in the coffin.
What was shocking was not their fourth consecutive sub-200 score in the series but the manner in which India had recorded them.
Talk all you want about having to play on a batsman’s graveyard of a pitch and in overcast conditions that are tailor-made for the hosts, the undeniable fact is that India’s batsmen batted with zero character, zero application and zero determination.
The Indian batsmen only have to look towards their captain Dhoni, who is far from being the most technically gifted batsman in the world but played two of his most gutsy and phlegmatic knocks on foreign soil to mitigate his team’s humiliation.
They can also look towards their English counterparts, who were under considerable pressure following the defeat at Lord’s but batted with oodles of application and resolve over the next couple of games to complement their bowling.
The conditions were unfavourable, the opposition bowling attack experienced and efficient in exploiting them, but the Indian batsmen were abysmal, and that is the sole reason they find themselves staring at a 3-1 series defeat—their win at Lord’s now appearing nothing more than an aberration.
Virat Kohli and Co. will soon realise, if they haven’t already, that they aren’t going to be given the luxury of time to settle into their roles by the impatient and vitriolic media and fans.
No amount of runs scored on flat tracks at home in short and meaningless bilateral series and the Indian Premier League are going to cover for shameful failures away from home.
No amount of relief can be gained from the fact that the long five-Test tour of England is almost over, with Mitchell Johnson and his mates waiting to receive them in November.
The way India are batting right now, another 4-0 loss in Australia, mirroring the one three years ago, would seem like an achievement. They seem broken beyond repair, and the next six months until the World Cup could see them being totally vanquished.