With two 4-0 drubbings overseas and now a 2-1 defeat at home, Indian cricket administrators, selectors, coaches and players have a lot to ponder. The Indians looked jaded on the field after too much cricket through the year. And they played against a team, which was far better prepared than them in all departments of the game.
Indians were over-confident predicting a clean sweep of the weak English team. The Indian skipper Dhoni is experienced in leading in all forms of the game, while Cook is new to the job. Apart from Test match-fitness, which clearly reflects on fielding and reflexes on the field, the weak Indian attack and dearth of quality fast bowlers at Test level added to India’s problems. After the retirement of Anil Kumble and out-of-form Harbhajan Singh, Ashwin and Ohja were not experienced to extract much from the pitch and conditions to trouble the English batsmen who are normally vulnerable to spin bowling.
India will not be consistent at home or win Test matches, especially abroad without good penetrative fast bowlers, bowling at 140 plus speed to trouble the opposition batsmen, in case the spinners fail to make a break-through. When you go into a Test with just one fast bowler that shows there is something seriously wrong with fast bowling in India. Bowlers, especially fast bowlers hunt in pairs. New raw fast bowlers should be encouraged. By taking one fast bowler the message you are sending in is two-fold – one, you lack quality fast bowlers and two, you discourage young fast bowlers who then feel there is no point of hard work as you are not going to be picked anyway. Fast bowling is a serious business; whenever the spinners fail, the fast bowlers are expected to do the damage. Every Test team around the world have a couple of good fast bowlers to fall back upon. Near home you have Sri Lanka and Pakistan with couple of good pace bowlers who are capable of restricting or damaging. Till Indian selectors understand this simple factor, India will not be consistent and find it difficult to win series abroad.
And Indian selectors have a tendency to pick players on reputation, not form or fitness. The senior players should be in form and fit enough to last for five days of Test cricket. Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan are glaring examples. They too need a break. The opening slot too is cause for concern. Rahane or Mohan can be tried out in place of Shewag or Gambir if have failed to provide a good start which is very vital for the batting side. Virat Kohli and Pujara are adequate replacements for Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, but they have a long way to go to step in to their shoes. The middle order is shaky and does not hold on in case the openers and one down batsmen fail. India needs good dogged batsmen to stay out there and build-up a good innings. Without the seniors, India looks a team in transition and vulnerable.
India’s biggest strength has been their spin department in sub-continent conditions, and this has let them down badly with no good replacements after Anil Kumble and out-of-form Harbhajan Singh. Through the series, India looked ordinary in batting, bowling and fielding except for a few glimpses of good cricket. Administrators and selectors need to have a good look and form a good pool of players, with a couple of batsmen each in different batting positions, spin and pace bowlers, etc who can replace if one fails or is out-of-form. India cannot rest only on its traditional strength of spin but will have to soon nurture fast bowlers if they have to consistently make an impression on world cricket. This is no rocket science. BCCI should know it by now.