Failing per se, is not bad. Failing to prepare, is. That phrase runs across my mind as I sit to analyze the misery inflicted on India in the English summer.
They say "Nihatte pe waar nahi karte" (don't attack an unarmed soul)..That is precisely how the second half of the summer panned out. A summer, which many Nostradamus' had claimed would be an Indian summer to remember. Huge claims, hollow returns..It was the heart speaking here, not the head. I for one had predicted this would be England's best chance to beat and maybe boss India. 4-0 I hadn't bargained for. 4-0 not even Andrew Strauss had bargained for. 4-0 it shouldn't have been.
April 2nd. All of us in tears of joy..The tears had barely stopped when MSD's Chennai beat Gauti's Kolkata in a close contest. An Indian generation was robbed of its chance to revel in the World Cup success. The BCCI was back to milking the cash cow that are its players. On the upside, the IPL gives mediocre players their 15 minutes of fame. Why, apparently one CSK player got his mother cured from a serious disease with an operation that cost him a fortune. But what about the Sehwags, SRTs, Laxmans and Jammies of the world. Ones with enough class to break into any Indian team at any time. And what about our Khan bhai, on whom our pulse was riding each moment of that WC campaign..If he even winced, we thought our worst fears had come true. Make no mistake, no Khan and we wouldn't have been in Mumbai on April 2nd.
The BCCI is a body which will never cleanse itself. Its coffers will never be empty, but its intentions and planning always will. That is where the players have to take up the cudgels and manage themselves. No physio knows a players niggles better than the player himself. Why does a Virender Sehwag wait till Dilli are knocked out before announcing he needs surgery on his fragile shoulder? Why does Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar (of all people) play 14 meaningless games for Mumbai? Does anyone care a sh*t if Mumbai wins or Bangalore wins? It is INDIA that matters. And Khan sahab? The man is not just our champion bowler by a street, but also our bowling captain. The bowling line up was totally rudderless without him in UK. It was almost like Ishant was yearning for the big man to put a hand on his shoulder and tell him he was doing OK. Don't the players have this responsibility towards their nation? And I am not saying this because we lost 4-0. No.
All of them played every game of the IPL and then decided to conveniently skip the ensuing ODIs and t20 in the Carribean. Yes, who can charge himself up playing infront of 50 people, 10 policemen and 2 dogs? And ooh la la there is no razzmatazz. The only carrot is wearing that India shirt, one that should be the only carrot. Nobody remembers an IPL hundred with the same fondness, as say Raina's goldust runs with the tail in THAT semifinal.
Some seniors joined for the West Indies test leg. Only Dravid, Laxman made runs. Raina made some as well. Kohli failed, which gutted me. But he should have gone to UK. Not Yuvraj Singh. Yes he was the man of the tournament in the WC, but you don't pick Vishy Anand in your team for a carrom doubles match, do you? We are a country with short public memory. Suddenly Yuvraj Singh was test material again. He hasn't been since 2003, likely he never will be. Our negative approach in the 3rd test where MSD pulled the plug with 85 to get in 15 overs was a sham. One that showed the goal was to win the series not to dominate. You don't become a champion team by settling for 1-0 series wins.
We walk into Taunton and Strauss playing for Somerset was symptomatic of the desperation England felt. They wanted to win this at all costs, kind of like India at the World Cup. So the first test was close, the second one was perennial 90's problem of not finishing the tail, the third one was annihilation and the 4th one was..I don't know what it was honestly. It was a case of a beleaguered team that had enough and were looking to take that British Airways flight out of Heathrow.
OK, we played badly. That happens. But being thoroughly outclassed in the planning department stuns me and also triggers anger. But has this team become bad all of a sudden? No. Are these the best 15 players in the country? Yes, more or less. So we have the tools to succeed, not having the tools would have been a bigger worry. This implies some bold decisions by MSD are the need of the hour.
1) Relieve the batting greats in phases as soon as possible. We love Lacchu Bhai, RD and SRT. But, I would rather lose 4-0 with Badri, Kohli and Pujara. With all due respect, I feel Dravid should be the one to put his hand up first. I want RD to go out on his own terms and on a stupendous unprecedented high. He owes us that. For 15 years of unending admiration.
2) The Australia tour starts in December. Our bowling attack Ishant, Harbhajan, Sreesanth, Praveen, Ojha, Mishra MUST play Ranji trophy cricket in November (not t20 or random bilateral ODI series at home). Take the Shatabdi, play in the undistinguished centers, learn your trade. 20 wickets in Australia won't come easy.
3) MSD to have a hard look at his own batting in whites. Again, he is by far the best fit for his role and there is no replacement. But we all strive to improve, don't we?
4) MSD to make an honest call on Harbhajan Singh. I personally would stick with him for a bit more, but its a border line call purely on form. Bhaj might have to quit the shorter formats to regain his mojo. It can start by playing Ranji Trophy for Punjab.
5) Sehwag and Khan to stop playing IPL/CLT20/Big Bash/any such. "The first time you make a mistake its an accident, the second time you make the same mistake its on purpose, and the third time you make that same mistake its no longer a mistake, its a habit." Break the habit boys, your body cannot handle the rigors of India Darshan over a month and a half. Play for India, achieving legendary status is your destiny.
It is important we fans keep faith in the team at this testing juncture. Achieving instant results is not a joke. The target should be to climb back to the top in 2 years. This was one horrendous series and India’s downhill slide predicted by the pundits is as exaggerated as their claims of us being undisputed no.1 in 2010. Truth is somewhere in between.
I am confident this series, however debilitating, was one-off. This too shall pass!