Champs to chumps, best to bust, first to worst—take your pick, and it aptly describes India’s spiraling slide in the ongoing tour of England. How can a team that a little more than four months ago lifted the World Cup, fail so miserably as to lose the test series without even putting up a fight and now be on the verge of a complete whitewash in the one-dayers?
Needless to say, everyone’s become an expert now. From commentators and ex-cricketers to fans, everyone’s coming up with a reason justifying this fall. These reasons include, fatigue caused by excessive cricket, lack of practice, zero acclimatization to English conditions, too much T20 and finally, complacency. However, have any of these armchair pundits considered the most obvious of reasons—maybe the much-hyped Indians are just not that good…and they probably never were to begin with?
Now, before you lynch me for making an audacious statement like that, let’s take a closer look at the World Cup, which India won after initially misfiring against South Africa and England, and then almost losing the plot against the West Indies. Thanks to individual efforts by Player of the Tournament, Yuvraj Singh and pacer Zaheer Khan, they somehow managed to make it to the finals, where at long last, MS Dhoni batted like he used to back when he sported those trademark long locks.
Also, the familiar pitches of the subcontinent played a factor. On the slow turning tracks, Indian batmen are Gods. However, when there’s the slightest bit of pace and bounce they look worse than the lower order of a club side. The point is, during the World Cup the deck was clearly stacked in India’s favor, but in England, Indian superstars were exposed for who they truly are—a bunch of overpaid prima donnas.
English conditions are ideal for a fair contest between bat and ball. These are the type of wickets where one’s raw talent and their ability to capitalize on it plays factor. Don’t believe me? Just ask the thousands of overseas cricketers, who flock to English shores every summer to get their fix of pure cricket. And no, they don’t do it for the money either, as quite frankly, in most cases there is none.
The solution to this problem with Indian cricket is quite simple. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should stop shielding their players from challenging pitches and conditions. Their goal should be to prepare players for alien conditions, and not just give them tailor-made tracks at home.
The bottom line is that star batsmen like Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir failed in England because they’re not real stars. Yes, they’re simply players that thrive in particular conditions. The only true champion in this lackluster lineup is Rahul Dravid, who has taken the time and the effort to familiarize himself with these conditions and hone his skills. Thanks to his stints with Scotland and MCC, these conditions are very familiar to him, which is why he could score back-to-back hundreds in the first two matches.
As far as the Indians are concerned, they need to get back to the nets, and not the drawing board. Ludicrous suggestions like “Fire Dhoni” or “Fire Ducan Fletcher” are not the solution. How about “Shut up and pad up!”
Lest we forget, the hallmark of a true champion is that he can fight no matter the time or place, and as is evidenced from what’s happened in England, the Indians have not even showed up!