Don't expect miracles overnight
My 20-month-old daughter fights back a lot more than the Indian team fought in the last three Tests if I take away her favourite candy. She'd get angry, won't mind hitting me and eventually start howling because something that's dear to her has been taken away. Unfortunately, the Indian team surrendered without even a glimpse of resistance, and that's what is irking the Indian fan, more than anything else.
A dejected Indian team looks on after the 1-3 series loss against England at the Oval in London on Sunday. Pic/AFP
Most people believe that this 1-3 drubbing is a lot worse than the 0-4 whitewash in 2011 because of the nature of the last two defeats. On both occasions the team lost 20 wickets in less than 90 overs - that is getting out twice on the same day. Thankfully, it didn't happen on the same day of the Test match or else it would have been even more humiliating. But is it really as bad or worse than the 2011 debacle?
I don't think it is, for the team in 2011 had Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, a three years younger Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan (however briefly) in the side, and that should've meant better results. India failed to win even a single Test back then.
On the contrary, this team showed excellent resolve in the first two Test matches. In fact, the win at Lord's was the best Test win under the stewardship of MS Dhoni. Everything was stacked against this young Indian team but it swam against the tide and won a historic match at the home of cricket. It's another matter that things went pear-shaped quite badly and quite quickly after that win. A couple of defensive moves at Southampton got England off the hook and brought their key players back in form, including the captain.
The first hour at Old Trafford pushed India back into the hole they dug in the previous game and it needed steely resolve to crawl out of it, and it was
possible. This Indian team did it at Lord's when they were reduced to 140/7 on Day One, but unfortunately, not a single batsman in the team drew inspiration from their own effort. Folding meekly in the second innings meant that damage was beyond repair.
Frankly, what happened at The Oval didn't surprise me one bit. In fact, I had anticipated that if India batted first it'd be a three and a half day Test match and if England batted first, it would extend by a couple of sessions. That's what happens when you lose the game in your head, like India did in the fourth Test match itself. Then the only thought that occupies your mind-space is the quick end to the agony.
The funny bit is that no one would openly acknowledge being thrown into disarray.
I've been a part of a few equally disastrous campaigns at different levels and can relate to the 'possible' atmosphere in the Indian dressing room. A five-Test series meant that there was no room to hide.
Not having a single friendly match after the series began meant that whoever lost form simply didn't have the opportunity to rediscover it. Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane are the best three, four and five in India and hence it's mandatory to stick with them and help them become better cricketers.
The aftermath of the crushing defeat has resulted in wholesale changes in the coaching staff with Ravi Shastri becoming the supremo. Now, Duncan Fletcher and Dhoni will be reporting to him and he will have an influence in picking the final XI too. Fielding coach Trevor Penny and bowling coach Joe Dawes have been given a break, which should mean showing them the door, for Indian team's lack of improvement in their respective field is quite visible.
Ravi Shastri has also handpicked the coaching staff that'd be assisting Fletcher in England. Am I optimistic about these changes? Yes, I am because I strongly feel that Indian coaches are now ready to take over the top jobs. But, don't expect miracles overnight. It would be a travesty if the new coaching staff's performance would be judged on the Indian team's performance in the ODI, for they are likely to struggle even in the shorter format.
While there are a few new faces, the older ones form the core and they are scarred by the Test series. Two new balls — one at each end — is likely to test their techniques further for I'm not expecting England to dish out India-like pitches for the ODI series like they did for the Champions Trophy in 2013.
India's average score per innings against England in the recently concluded Test series