India's chaotic surrender comes from the top down

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The Independent Online

Only Shane Warne among the present Australian cricketers was born when they last won a Test series in India in 1969. While this may have been an aberration - and a correction was inevitable - India's capitulation to arguably a less powerful Australian team than their two immediate predecessors, has been shocking.

On the decisive Friday, among the smattering of Australian supporters in the stands, was one dressed as Santa Claus. With their conquest of the final frontier, Christmas has certainly come early for the Aussies.

Only 10 months ago, India almost clinched a series in Australia. Admittedly, the hosts were without Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, while Jason Gillespie was short of full fitness. But the punishment meted out by the Indian batsmen did not augur too well for the Australians' trip to the subcontinent.

But the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) still function like a fiefdom, instead of being professionally managed. While profits are not to be scoffed at, the BCCI seem to attach greater store by these than the success of the team. Sourav Ganguly and his men were thrust into the series with no exposure to Test cricket for six months.

Two months ago, after endless wheeling and dealing, the BCCI appeared to license four-year TV rights to Zee TV, even taking a $20 million (£10.9m) advance for the $308m deal. But on being challenged by the second highest bidder, ESPN-Star Sports, the BCCI backtracked. Zee went on appeal to the Indian Supreme Court, whose verdict is awaited.

The elevation of BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya to a newly created post of patron-in-chief has been struck down by a lower court and also comes up for review by the Supreme Court; as do last month's controversial BCCI elections, presided over by Dalmiya. The BCCI are not only entangled in a web of lawsuits, but also the status of their officers is undermined.

The Indian players cannot be unaffected. Moreover, Ganguly is widely, albeit a little unfairly, labelled as a protégé of Dalmiya. And the knives may be out for him among Dalmiya's opponents on the faction-ridden Board.

The Indian Tourist Office's promotional campaign, "Incredible India", highlights the country's ancient tradition of hospitality as one of its attractions. In accord with the spirit, the Vidarbha Cricket Association at Nagpur produced a firm, grassy wicket, which could have been made for the more skilful and better endowed (taller and with stronger wrists) Australian quicks rather than their Indian counterparts who, in any case, were reduced to a solitary international standard seamer in Zaheer Khan - Ajit Agarkar being a virtual passenger.

Previously, Ganguly might have, through Dalmiya's intervention, persuaded the locals to provide a better surface. But the VCA rejected Ganguly's request. Consequently, the Indians fell victim to the BCCI's internecine quarrels.

Of course, Ganguly made it worse by getting overly agitated about the surface. He thus instilled an apprehension among his team mates, whereby they lost the match in the mind even before it began.

It can be argued that an India bolstered by Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan, not to mention Ganguly (who, it has to be conceded, inspired a fightback in the Second Test), may have given a more respectable account of themselves here. But chopping and changing opening combinations and a hasty reintroduction of a rusty Sachin Tendulkar who had not played any cricket for three months were, perhaps, inadvisable.

There is no explanation, though, for the sustained inefficacy of the mainstays in the India middle order. Ganguly analysed this as a problem of "mindset and application", but admitted that he, the coach John Wright and batting consultant Sunil Gavaskar had failed to fix it.

There will be a new opening partner for Virender Sehwag, while Dinesh Karthik will replace Parthiv Patel as wicket-keeper in this week's Fourth Test in Bombay. With the fate of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy settled, the home side need to probe the talent pool in India A's ranks.

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