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

The Indian Angle


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'

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine