Shamya Dasgupta: India need road map to avoid veering into abyss

The Indian Angle

The Vidarbha CA Stadium

For a 20-month period ending in August 2011, India were No 1 in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings. Whether you take the rankings seriously or not, it was proof that they were a good Test-playing nation, practically unbeatable at home and competitive when on tour. From there to their current position of fifth on the same table has been quite a fall. To rub salt into the wound, England have proved that India are not unbeatable at home any more.

Admittedly, the Indian team rose to the high it did when Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman were still in the mix, when the Indian spinners got more bite off Indian tracks than opposition slow bowlers, and when M S Dhoni's captaincy bore results. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were effective batsmen, Zaheer Khan was one of the most incisive pacers around, and Gary Kirsten, not Duncan Fletcher, was the Indian coach.

Those facilitating factors are no longer there, and in India's case, fate has conspired so that they disappeared almost simultaneously. "It is not easy to replace players like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and V V S Laxman," Dhoni said at the end of the 1-2 embarrassment, stating the obvious.

But the problem Indian Test cricket faces is not about replacements. It owes much to not anticipating the eventuality and preparing for it. Essentially, India have followed the example of the West Indies of the 1980s and not of Australia of the mid-2000s when they entered the so-called phase of transition.

West Indies sank into an abyss after the golden generation moved on but Australia, even if they didn't come out of it as strong as they once were, do not appear as weak or vulnerable as India do today. Is it fair to expect a batting order that once included Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Sourav Ganguly to be as strong when most of them have retired and the ones that haven't are closing in on their best-before date? Obviously not.

But it would not have been unfair to expect that the best of the rest would be readied, and possibly blooded, by the time the heroes bade farewell.

But in the high created by that No 1 ranking and the triumph in the 50-over World Cup, it was made to appear that the problems of the near future were only in the minds of analysts in the media. What made the situation worse was the focus on the Indian Premier League, which, apart from taking up a large chunk of Indian cricket's time and imagination, also provided an avenue that appeared much more attractive, and certainly more lucrative, to the next generation.

The money was flowing and India would carry the tag of defending one-day world champions until the 2015 World Cup, so there was no need to worry. And even if India lost the Test series 4-0 in England and Australia, all was well because when they came to India, we would do the same to them. West Indies (2-0) and New Zealand (2-0) played their role well from India's point of view, but England chose not to.

After the two Twenty20 assignments against England, India play a limited-overs series against Pakistan followed by a five-match ODI series against England. The next Test fixtures are in February-March against Australia.

The big decisions, however, must be taken now. Tendulkar may or may not retire, but an overhaul of Indian cricket – in personnel and planning – must happen before the Australia series.

Test cricket remains as important as it has always been and it will be a long time before T20s can replace it as the more important version of the game. The Indian Premier League riches cannot blind the cricket authorities to that reality. The loss to England must be analysed and a practical road map must be put in place. And a couple of series losses cannot derail the process as long as there is a long-term vision to save the Indian Test team.

Shamya Dasgupta is senior editor at Wisden India,

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn