If Indians were saddened by their team's woeful performance last week and their fall from the top perch of Test rankings, then they could hardly have been entirely surprised. What certainly did hurt was the manner of their idols' defeat.
After an opening match in which the Indian team were threatening and competitive, their fans have slumped as the players they adore have rolled over with just the merest resistance. Given the pre-series speculation about the mighty Sachin Tendulkar nailing his 100th century and the team building on their success in the World Cup tournament earlier this year, there is now a sense of deep disappointment.
"Shamed and Dethroned" declared a headline over a front-page article in yesterday's Times of India which talked of the team's "humiliating" loss at Edgbaston. The front page of the Indian Express was similarly downcast. "Humiliation is complete: No 1 crown lost," it read.
There was no shortage of analysis as to how India had got it so wrong and lost their place in pole position, a slot they had occupied since defeating Sri Lanka in December 2009. Commentators talked of a lack of preparation, of the team playing too much cricket and of an overemphasis on shorter forms, such as Twenty20 matches and one-day internationals.
The pervasive influence of the highly lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) was held up by many as a distraction from Test cricket. The deeply disappointed former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly said he had "not seen an Indian team like this in the last 10 years".
"It's embarrassing – the means of defeat, rather than the actual defeat," said Pradeep Magazine, a leading sports columnist. "Obviously we did not value our number one position or we would have been better prepared."
He said the Indian team was in a difficult transition phase and that many of the senior batsmen were likely playing in the latter stages of their career, adding that he hoped the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would think long and hard about what had gone wrong. "India is travelling to Australia in December. That will be another tough test. Let's hope they do well," he said. "Because for Test cricket to do well, I think it's important for India to be a good Test team."
The BCCI has already expressed its concerns. "We are very concerned with the performance of the Indian Test team. We didn't expect India to go down so badly," Rajeev Shukla, the board's vice-president, said. "Now we will sit down and analyse what went wrong before taking corrective measures."
Some believe the board itself may bear some of the responsibility for the team's performance. The Mumbai-based sports writer and analyst Venkat Ananth said the tour of England had shown up a lack of preparation, questions about the team's batting line-up and a tactical shortfall for playing Test cricket at the highest levels.
He said the problems had been on display for several years for those who cared to look, but that many cricket writers opted for nationalistic enthusiasm rather than hard analysis. He said: "This is a time for Indian cricket to be introspect. Players like Tendulkar, [Rahul] Dravid and [V V S] Laxman are not getting any younger."
He added: "The trouble is that if we do well in the next one-day series, people will forget this happened."Reuse content