This India team don't feel at home even at home
Sunday 09 December 2012
When a team fold without a fight, there is a tendency to criticise the batsmen rather than give the bowlers their due. India lacked heart, and that must have been galling for the 30,000-strong crowd at the Eden Gardens; but a last-wicket stand – characterised as the triumph of hope over probability – kept them entertained.
You can either blame Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar for misjudging the ball that turned and the one that didn't, respectively, from Graeme Swann, or marvel at a bowler who can force mistakes from batsmen who have grown up playing spin bowling. Or maybe they haven't played enough. The superstars neglect the domestic game thanks to the scheduling.
After dismissing England, India had to see out a significant portion of nearly six sessions. One thought they had the batting to either win or lose a Test, but not to save it. Now it appears only one of those choices is real.
Back to the drawing board then, as India struggle with the transition. The attitude that away defeats do not matter, only home wins count, was juvenile to begin with, but even that fig leaf is being pulled away. If it is true that the Eden Gardens curator is set to be sacked because the president of the cricket board is unhappy, it means India will continue to deflect blame and find scapegoats outside the team and officialdom.
From a larger perspective, it is important for India to support Test cricket so the format thrives, or at least survives. Defeats will diminish interest, which might suit the IPL-saturated folks who make the decisions but will harm the sport. This is not to suggest that other teams ought to occasionally let India win a Test to keep the interest alive. But if India don't get the mix right – either in the natural course of events or because of steadily shrinking concern among the officials, corporates and fans – then it would be highly irresponsible.
Part of the problem is India's refusal to acknowledge that there is a problem. Defeats are airily dismissed, and the push for excellence is reduced to a gentle nudge.
At least since Sourav Ganguly retired in 2008, the fact that his contemporaries Rahul Dravid, Tendulkar and VVS Laxman would soon follow ought to have dawned on the selectors. Yet there was neither exit strategy nor smooth replacement. India are paying for that short-sightedness now.
There is some merit in allowing Tendulkar to choose his time and place, but he has to make up his mind now. In recent times, the spectators have been giving him a standing ovation twice, sometimes within minutes of each other. The first time in anticipation, and the second in disappointment.
A banner, as India kept slipping, said in effect, "Dhoni, we will stand by you". But it wasn't held up by an Indian selector or board official.
Mahendra Dhoni's record in the series hasn't been spectacular. His wicketkeeping has been inconsistent, although he took his 200th Test catch yesterday. His scores have been 5, 29, 6, 52 and 10.
Cricket teams tend to be moulded in the captain's image. Think Alastair Cook and England, Michael Clarke and Australia, Graeme Smith and South Africa. Dhoni and India – both are struggling. It is time for him to go as captain, time for the coach, Duncan Fletcher, and his merry band of mutual back-scratchers to be called to account, and for India to invest in the future.
Bring in youngsters who do not carry the baggage of recent defeats. Transition is never easy, but it is made more difficult by the refusal to accept reality. And the reality is that this Indian team don't feel at home even at home.
Suresh Menon is editor of Wisden India Almanack
Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando
First full-length look is finally here
World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'
Brooklyn Beckham poses in Arsenal training kit following rumours of signing for the Gunners
Manchester United transfer news and rumours: David De Gea could leave for FREE; £38m for Marquinhos; £37m bid for Mats Hummels;
Transfer news LIVE: Manchester United to make £37m Mats Hummels bid; Inter plan Yaya Toure move; Shola Ameobi joins Crystal Palace
Australian Open 2015: Novak Djokovic vs Stan Wawrinka match preview
Danny Ings to Liverpool: The Reds attempt to steal a march on rivals in race to sign Burnley striker
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures