Having been absolutely badgered by a resilient England team, it is back to the drawing board for the Indian team. India have been unqualifyingly abject but to be fair this England team is a mighty strong unit. Unlike India, their hold on the No. 1 ranking looks a lot more solid and they look the real deal in every sense. Hell, England are the new Australia in town.
In normal circumstances, fans can clutch at straws and at least point towards redeeming factors in a failed campaign. Here the Indian fans could count the positives on the fingers of one hand and still be left with fingers to spare. Rack your brains and then rack some more, and all you can come up with is Rahul Dravid’s batting. Exercise it a bit more and maybe Praveen Kumar’s gumption and spirit stands out. What else? Search me.
One telling stat that bears iteration is that prior to this series, Rahul Dravid had just 2 centuries in losing causes for India in his 150-test career; meaning every other century he had got resulted in an Indian win or at worst a draw. In this series alone, he has more than doubled that tally – all 3 of his centuries went in vain. This says as much about Dravid being a lone ranger as about the rest of the team being a bunch of under-performers.
So where to from here for India? India would do well to emulate the template provided by England. England had sunk to the depths of a 5-0 Ashes whitewash – only the second in history – before striking gold. Unlike India though, England’s hasn’t been a story of a few brilliant individuals carrying the team through. Theirs has been a much more meticulous and methodical approach in their ascent to the top. They’ve put processes in place and concentrated on creating a squad rather than just a team of 11. That is what manifested in having a readymade replacement in Tim Bresnan for their strike bowler Chris Tremlett. Reverse the situation and with Zaheer khan out, all the screws came off India’s machine.
Preparation is another key word that we’ve heard a lot in the last few weeks. While England prepared with a missionary zeal for this marquee series, India went AWOL. The results are there for all to see. India came under-cooked and were fried by a well-oiled English unit. Graham Gooch, England’s batting coach has an apt saying to motivate his troops, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”. This couldn’t be truer for the Indian team. They should make this their mantra going forward, for preparing – and preparing well - is one thing they failed to do.
Preparation was their single biggest failing – and hopefully their single biggest learning - from this series. They felt they just needed to turn up and they'd win; it’s a pitfall a lot of really good players and teams have fallen into over the years and paid a heavy price for it. The ones that don’t fall into this trap are the real champions. Or the reverse could also be true – true champions never get bitten by the complacency bug.
This has been an unmitigated disaster in every sense of the term. The only bright spot is that there will hopefully be an acceptance that not everything is right with Indian cricket; that their needs to be a succession plan once the Big Three retire; and most of all, that India need to build an all-weather attack that can pick 20 wickets consistently under different conditions and circumstances.
Some steps are already being taken to show that a few lessons are being learnt. For the tour of Australia, for instance, BCCI are now insisting on a practice game before the tests begin. Why this was not a part of the original itinerary and why BCCI insist on ‘learning’ only after having burnt their fingers is a different story altogether.
To end this on a slightly depressing note for Indian fans, the No. 1 ranking looks like a thing of the past at least in the foreseeable future. The least the fans can hope for is to see the will among administrators and players alike to rectify this and set the wheels in motion in trying to recapture the hard-earned but short-lived glory. For that though, India will have to incorporate some of the bloody-mindedness England showed both in planning and execution.