The Indian camp has digested a hat-trick of Boxing Day Test losses to Australia. Sure, they refused to look at newspapers yesterday, diligently answered phone calls. But, they did not disappoint the fans who gathered outside the Lingham Hotel here on Thursday evening, signing autographs and obliging to picture requests. They appeared in happy spirits. "It's just a process of acclimatisation, we'll be back," selector Mohinder Amarnath says in a passing remark to MiD DAY.
Zaheer Khan during the Boxing Day Test. PIC/Getty Images
Amarnath's remark should be taken seriously. India are slow starters. They would have lost the first Test at Sabina Park earlier this year if it wasn't for Darren Sammy dropping Rahul Dravid on the third day. Before that, India last won the first Test of an away tour at The Bull Ring in 2006-07. A poor start was estimated. But, when you consider that Bet Fair and Ladbrokes favoured an Indian win on Thursday morning, and the local media had lost hope in their side after Cardiff 2009, Mohali 2010-11, Cape Town 2011-12 and Hobart 2011-12, the loss is all the more significant, hard to fathom.
Fifth in a row
The Indians know that it's their fifth consecutive defeat abroad. They are aware that the batting line-up has flopped again, managing a 300-plus total only once in their last 16 outings abroad. They also know that the ageing batting line-up can't be banished, because it's the younger lot, the Kohlis, the Gambhirs that are failing to deliver.
Keep in mind, the star quartet of Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar has 9,152 Border-Gavaskar Trophy runs against Australia. What would do if you're MS Dhoni or Duncan Fletcher? Are the Rahanes and Sharmas going swoop in to fix this? No. This is India's best possible XI. Kohli hit two fifties in his last Test. Can you look past his splendid last-day knock at Wankhede Stadium against West Indies last month?
The local media here has capitalised on a wonderful opportunity to remind India of their persisting batting woes. "MS Dhoni has conceded India's great weapon (batting) is now its weakness -- a cast of batting flops who must prove they are not flat track bullies," The Daily Telegraph wrote.
"Most of the smart money in Mohali, Mumbai and Melbourne was on India quickly sweeping aside the last of the Australian resistance and then unleashing the demi-gods of their batting line-up," The Australian wrote, referring to the last-wicket stand of James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus that made a difference to India's eventual target of 292.
"The boys don't want to read papers. They have been in such situations before. We are drawing lot of positives from the first Test," manager Shivlal Yadav tells MiD DAY. The 'flat-track bullies' have a reputation to protect. Otherwise the accolades garnered over the years will reach a watershed, respect will be lost.