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Testing times


India managed to win a Test match against the not-so-mighty Windies. Hooray! Now that the back’s have been patted and the champagne has stopped flowing it is time to take off the party hats and put the thinking hats on. What is wrong with India’s batting?
“Nothing”, you say? Fine. I beg to differ. Let’s talk about while England is still fresh in our minds. The team that went to England was in no way weak. And if you talk about lack of match practice then, well, the three test matches should have been enough for a good performance in the fourth one, right? Then what went wrong? 
People will cite all sorts of reasons from Sehwag’s absence and ill-judged comeback to RD’s bad luck with UDRS, but that doesn’t take away the fact that our batting collectively failed eight times in a row. Well if you count the 1st innings at Kotla, that makes it nine. Forget about rest, 9 innings meant 27 opportunities for 3 of the world’s best batsmen to make their mark. How many did they grab? And we still think there was nothing really wrong?
This was perhaps the last tour of England for these 3 veterans. The English media should have been waxing lyrical about their performances and lamenting their imminent retirement. But this tour did more damage to their reputation than any tour before ever had. Not even the disastrous tour of Australia in ’99 had seen Sachin come off looking worse. It all started with the hype of the 100th hundred and 9 innings later it still haunts him. For someone who has scored 99 centuries he needn’t be under pressure to deliver one more. It is surprising that the player who has displayed unbreakable mental strength over so many years appears to be hamstrung by something so insignificant in the bigger picture.
Dravid was The Great Wall of India that kept bowlers at bay. But on this tour for once he seemed scalable. He was by miles the best performer for India but even that was way below his standards and that speaks a lot about the Indian Team’s performance on the tour. He played a few gems but was undone by bad luck on more than one occasion. 
Laxman’s was a strange case. He played himself in and got himself set for the long haul only to fritter it away quite needlessly. This is not the Laxman he was seen over the years. There seemed to be something on the back of his mind that kept him distracted just enough to commit those mistakes. 
Fast forward to England’s tour of India and it seemed these batting problems were a figment of our imagination. England were derobed, walloped, and sent home on the back of some ruthless batting performances. 
And then West Indies dropped by for a few Tests. And suddenly the ghosts were circling over our heads again as Indian team capitulated against a distinctly mediocre West Indian attack on a seemingly lifeless track and barring a rearguard action by Dravid would have failed to even cross 200. But thankfully the much maligned bowling attack was up to the mark and a slightly better performance in the second inning saw India win the match on the 4th day but with a lot more difficulty than expected.
Whatever demons these are, they need to be exorcised and exorcised soon. I say demons because they are definitely something in their heads. They are still amongst the best in the business and it hurts to see them struggle when we are about to sit down and write pantheons about their colossal careers. Things better change soon or we will be heading back to the winning in the dust bowls era of the 90s. 

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