OH boy, the long knives are really out big time! The performance of our cricket team in the Test series in England has resulted in strident calls for the heads of MS Dhoni, coach Duncan Fletcher and the various members of the support staff.
Virat Kohli walks back after being dismissed at The Oval. Pic/AFP
Many years ago, when Sunil Gavaskar was the captain and India had a poor match against Australia in what was then Calcutta, the airport staff was very rude to the team members who were catching their flight to the next venue.
In philosophical vein, the skipper’s wife Marshneil ruefully told me that what happened was the reverse side of all the fame, hero worship and other perks that belonged to the Indian team almost by default.
Not the right time
The ability of the Indian public to run the entire gamut of slobbering adulation to vicious denigration of cricketers in particular, is unparalleled. While the defeats hurt like hell, especially after the manner in which we won at Lord’s, now is not the time to unleash vitriol on each and every member of the team.
Now is the time when we must be more understanding of what the team has gone through and the circumstances under which they found themselves. It must be remembered that the entire top and middle order was new to English Test match conditions.
While someone like Virat Kohli, in the opinion of many pundits is one of the finest batsmen in the world in any format and Cheteshwar Pujara a rock solid no-nonsense player, might have been expected to work things out much like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly did when they first toured England, it was just not to be.
Support for young guns
If nothing succeeds like success, and winning is a habit, the same is doubly true of failure. Perishing in the same manner several times set off a chain of negativity and doubt in Kohli’s mind.
Having experienced troughs of despair myself, though in a totally different discipline, I feel that to overcome this he needed some quiet introspection, some serious “me time” which in this age of relentless media intrusion was not possible.
He is a very intelligent cricketer and certainly the future of Indian cricket, and one can be reasonably sure that this chastening experience will see him and the likes of Pujara emerge from the furnace like pure steel the next time around.
Also consider for a moment the tools that the captain had at his disposal. Like Ganguly observed, serious fire power is always a huge advantage. Dhoni just did not have it.
The gutsy Bhuvneshwar Kumar started off swinging the ball prodigiously at speeds over the mid-130s, but as the series wore on and with the work-load of bowling and shoring up the brittle batting taking their toll, his speed dropped to below 130, making him cannon fodder for the rampaging Englishmen.
And oh, that dropped catch of Alastair Cook by Ravindra Jadeja! If ever there was a single factor responsible for turning the series on its head, surely that was it!
Limitations of space compel me to end by asking our countrymen to spare a thought for the boys who are licking their wounds. They deserve at least that much.
The writer is a former world billiards champion