Suresh Menon: Time ebbing away for Sachin Tendulkar and old order as India team starts to disintegrate

The Indian Angle

Kolkata

Indian cricket is at the crossroads. One path leads to the Indian Premier League, the other to more Test match defeats if these are seen merely as the price for wearing white clothes on the field. Only Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh would have played fewer than India's nine Tests by the end of this year.

The Indian team have a job on their hands – specific and time bound – and that is to win the Nagpur Test match to level the series against England. The selectors have a job on their hands too – general and not bounded by time or place – and that is to rebuild a team that was once No 1 but has been demoralised by a succession of defeats.

Yet, the tasks are allied, and how the specific job is done will have a bearing on how the general one is approached. The big decisions may have been postponed by a week, even if they do not officially have to be made before the next series begins.

If India win in Nagpur, the old order will survive – and that means skipper MS Dhoni will retain his job and Sachin Tendulkar will have a few more weeks to make up his mind, meanwhile filling newsprint, the airwaves and cyberspace with lengthy, passionate, and ultimately inconclusive debates.

A draw might see the end of Dhoni's reign as he would become the first captain in 27 years to lose a home series to England and the first to lose any home series in eight years. A defeat should, in all fairness, definitely end it especially since the skipper has got away unscathed after two disastrous series abroad.

At the end of the Kolkata defeat he said it would be irresponsible of him to quit now when the team is down, which is an argument for not quitting at all. For why would you quit when the team is doing well?

Indian cricket hasn't been big on accountability. It is a reflection of the policy of the cricket board which sees itself above either transparency or accountability.

The sight of an England team coming together under an inspiring captain has contrasted sharply with that of an Indian team disintegrating under a leader too concerned with the here and now, and too slow to ring the changes even as he watches a once-great team slide down the tube.

Admittedly not everything is his fault. Not all great teams have handled transition well. The West Indies, riding on the conveyor belt of fast bowlers and attacking batsmen, didn't, nor did Australia more recently. Both teams had one thing in common with India. They were not a team of just very good players; they were a collection of contemporary greats and that does not always happen in the same generation.

As early as 2004 in Australia, there was speculation that India's top order might be the finest line-up of all time: Sehwag, Chopra, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman. The 1948 Invincibles' batting order in Bradman's last Test was: Barnes, Morris, Bradman, Hassett, Miller, Harvey. The West Indies in the 1980s could call upon Greenidge, Haynes, Kallicharan, Richards, Lloyd, Gomes.

Only Tendulkar remains of that middle order and, in his 23rd year, he has been consistently misreading length. It is like a great musician struggling with scale – what was once taken for granted now causes embarrassment.

Any all-time Indian squad will contain at least half a dozen players who made their debut after Tendulkar; the bowlers Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan to add to the batting list. It has been the golden age of Indian cricket and now that is history.

India must accept that and move on. And if the captain and the most senior player are clogging up the system, they must be told. It is difficult not to feel sympathy for Zaheer Khan, a warrior who had to be dropped. But that is the way of sport.

The old order makes way for the new and selectors have to fulfil themselves in many ways, lest one poor selection should corrupt the team.

Suresh Menon is editor of 'Wisden India Almanack'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee