India's selectors wasted no time in addressing their problems following defeat in the third Test here yesterday by dropping lynchpin fast bowler Zaheer Khan and batting all-rounder Yuvraj Singh less than four hours after the end of the match.
Harbhajan Singh is another fall guy – although he did not play here – and the three stellar names will be replaced in Nagpur by pace bowler Parvinder Awana, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side can expect a chorus of disapproval to follow them from here to Nagpur, but the captain at least claims to retain his appetite for the battles ahead. India's first Eden Gardens defeat since the last millennium was a second in successive Tests to England, and means the hosts can no longer win the four-match series.
It was no surprise, after England had chased just 40 runs in the second innings to prevail by seven wickets and take an unassailable 2-1 lead, to hear Dhoni called to account by an agitated home press contingent.
While England can quietly add a successful "reintegration" process in their ranks to their list of positive developments under Alastair Cook, the Times of India front page proclaimed the "disintegration" of Dhoni's team.
A new captain and six changes were the suggested remedy, in a radical line-up especially notable for the absence of Dhoni himself and veteran master batsman Sachin Tendulkar. The India selectors unsurprisingly stopped short of that. Dhoni earlier made it clear he was happy to defer to the wisdom of the Board of Control for Cricket, but that he relishes the opportunity to try to put his team back on track. "The selectors are here to decide," said the wicketkeeper-batsman.
"It's always fine to lead a side when they're doing really well, and everyone's performing. But that's not the time when you need a leader. Leading a side is all about [doing it] when the team is not doing well, trying to gel them together, back the youngsters and the senior guys. The easiest thing for me to do right now is to give up the captaincy and be part of the side, because that's just running away from the responsibility. I have to get the team together, and be prepared for the next Test match."
Dhoni does not believe either that India are at their lowest ebb in his tenure, citing instead whitewash defeats away to both Australia and England. "We were not really able to compete [then]. We know what our faults are here, and I think we should be able to rectify them."
He believes a lack of collective productivity among India's frontline batsmen in back-to-back defeats in Mumbai and Kolkata is the main problem. "I think the batting order will have to take the responsibility. We need to score more runs, on a very good wicket to bat on like this. Of course, the bowlers will bowl a few good deliveries that you need to keep out. But in the top seven, most of us need to score at the same time to give the bowlers a par total to defend. Otherwise, it's very difficult and you find yourself under pressure."
Former England coach Duncan Fletcher has also had his critics since taking the same position with India, and has now overseen six Test defeats out of seven home and away against his old team.
Dhoni, however, insists Fletcher is not to blame. "The coach has excellent technical knowledge about batting, and guides the players in the right direction," he said. "Ultimately, once you cross that rope, you are on your own. That's where we are lacking as of now. It's wrong to question the coach, because we have won quite a few series. We should not look for excuses. It's up to the 11 players on the field."Reuse content