What next for India? (Part II)

Eleven months ago, after India lost the Adelaide Test and had finished their second 0-4 defeat in six months, I wrote about what they could learn from it and what they should do afterward. Now, after almost a year of keeping their heads in the sand and insisting that away defeats were nothing about which to be concerned they finally lost at home. After reading all the excuses and denials that have been piling up since they lost in England I am not sure that even this will snap them out of their complacency, but it ought to. (And if it doesn’t I am not sure what will.) If India want to get better they need to make changes and quite a few of them.

First up, MS Dhoni needs to be sacked as captain. The attitude of the entire Indian team has been poor for most of the series against England as it was last year when they were on tour. This may not come from Dhoni, but as captain he should be the one stopping it and keeping the side interested. Instead he is often as bad as the rest of them and the result is the sort of capitulations we have seen from India when they get behind. He deserves credit for promoting himself as India collapsed in the Nagpur Test, but before that (especially in Calcutta) he seemed disinterested and when England were batting for a draw he made no effort to attack and force the issue on the last day. His tactics in general have actually been quite poor; amongst other things he never seemed to recognise that England were actually playing his spinners quite well and decided to play four of them in the last Test. The only reason to keep him on is the lack of a suitable replacement and that is a problem. The heir-apparent is Virat Kohli but his temperament in the last Test was hardly that of a captain. But even he would be a step up from Dhoni (who now has only two wins in his last 14 Tests against England, Australia and South Africa) at the moment and India need to make that change immediately. Ideally the captaincy will go to someone like Cheteshwar Pujara in a few years; India need someone sensible.

India’s batting struggled overall this series. There were bright spots and they were up against very good bowling, but ultimately it was a poor performance. At the top of the order Virender Sehwag played only one decent innings and Gautam Gambhir could not convert any of the starts he made. Cheteshwar Pujara batted well at number three, but Sachin Tendulkar, Kohli and Yuvraj Singh all had variously poor series. There are only two who are crying out to be dropped, however: Sehwag has made an entire career out of batting in India, but now he is having difficulty even there. It is hard to believe that Ajinkya Rahane, with a first class average of 62, would not do at least as well and should be given a go if not against Australia then immediately thereafter. The other batsman who needs to go is Sachin Tendulkar. He has already clung on longer than he should have and he simply looks a shadow of the player he once was. His recent stats speak for themselves and as old as he is there is no good to be had for either himself or the team by staying on. Kohli was poor in the series overall, but he showed in the last Test that he could bat properly; he and Pujara look like the young players around whom India should construct their batting.

India’s bowling was arguably what let them down most of all. England have improved against spin, but it is still hardly a strength of theirs, however India struggled to make a major impact on England’s batting after the first innings of the series. Part of the reason for that was Umesh Yadav picking up an injury and missing the last three Tests of the series; he looked quite good in the first Test and India certainly missed him. This is something with which India might have some problems for a while; a lot of teams have injury concerns, but India don’t appear to have enough depth to really negate those problems. Certainly Parvinder Awana ought to have been selected for the last Test, but they don’t appear to have many fast bowlers demanding a run in the side and their spinners were at best average in this series. But how they must not respond to this is to recall Zaheer Khan. He is barely fit at the best of times and he has been distinctly unimpressive recently. There is no need for him to play another Test. Much the same goes for Harbhajan Singh; India definitely have better spinners than him and enough that he need not play again.

India will not go back to being a top side overnight. They are in a very similar position to that in which Australia were a few years ago as their stars aged and retired and they have to recognise that there will be a period of mediocrity. How they respond and build for the future will determine how long that period lasts; they they must recognise sooner rather than later that they cannot keep going off past records and achievements. The sooner they wake up to their current situation the better they will be in the long run.

2 thoughts on “What next for India? (Part II)

  1. For me the biggest problem was the fielding. India let through about 30 runs per match because of poor fielding, and they gave almost every English batsman at least one extra life with a dropped catch or botched run out at some point in the series. Their poor out-cricket put them under pressure, and allowed England the momentum to win the tests. I honestly believe that was the major difference, and I’m not sure a team can thrive with 4 bad fielders in the side.


    1. Their fielding was terrible, but although there is certainly an inherent skill to fielding (especially catching) I think a lot of it was their attitude. They never seemed interested in chasing a ball to the rope or sprinting to cut off a single and I think that is something which might change with a different captain.


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