Close to 5 years ago, India sent its “best” team to the West Indies to play the World cup. Expectations were high – the team had Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Sehwag, Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, etc, etc. We had forgotten that India had taken quite a beating against South Africa in South Africa in the one day series (4-0), but a ODI series against WI and Sri Lanka at home, which India won somehow convinced everyone that everything was OK. As we all know, that was India’s worst World cup performance, crashing out in the first round.
In a way, that was one of the best things that happened to Indian Cricket. The loss hurt India so much that it became the catalyst for a turn around. In the next four years or so, India managed to win the World T20 cup, the #1 ranking in tests and finally finishing up with the World Cup last year.
I can see some similarities with the World cup in 2007 to the current Australian tour. Before this series, India were white washed in England, but then beat West Indies convincingly at home. Suddenly, the defeat in England was forgotten and everyone were convinced that this was the team that was going to beat Australia in Australia. The current defeat in Australia has been quite humiliating, and although we haven’t seen the effigy burning and stone throwing at players’ houses (Thank God for that) or the kind of mass anger against the players that we saw after the World cup result, I still hope the Australia tour result can become a catalyst for change.
Before the start of the 3rd Test, I was trying to sound positive and indicated that it wasn’t as bad as it was made to appear, and India could still salvage some pride in the series. The end result, however was quite the opposite and India lost the match in just 3 days. I don’t want to dissect the result and comment on what went wrong – there were just too many starting with the team composition (I think we should have just gone with the same team as Sydney).
Here are a few of my thoughts -
I find people asking for Dhoni’s resignation of captaincy absurd. Just 6 months ago, he could do no wrong. Suddenly Captain Cool has become Captain Indifferent. It is easy for people to ask for Dhoni to be sacked without specifying a replacement. Who would you replace Dhoni with? Sehwag? Gambhir? Both their batting form is questionable too.
Everyone want the seniors in the team to be dropped. I agree that the seniors have failed in this series, but if you look at the averages of the batsmen since the beginning of 2011, then Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman top the list – the next best is R. Ashwin!
But that doesn’t mean the seniors have to continue on. The failure of the seniors have finally given India the opportunity to start thinking about a succession plan. The first “senior” that needs to go is Laxman (who has the poorest record of all three – and also the poorest in terms of fitness).
We don’t have an overseas Test series coming up any time soon. The next one outside of the sub-continent isn’t until November 2013 against South Africa – it gives a perfect opportunity for us to get the “seniors” to retire at home this year (the sooner the better) and start blooding the next generation of players.
If things work according to plan, we should have bid farewell to Laxman, Dravid, Zaheer and Tendulkar by then. It would be really sad to see them go, but it just needs to happen.
There is plenty of talk about IPL being a bad influence – I disagree. It has both good and bad bits to it, and is a good place to start picking players to play in International T20 matches or even in ODIs.
To pick players for the Test team, we need a strong domestic competition, with good sporting pitches, that give results (the kind of pitch that was made for the Ranji Trophy final is a good example of a bad pitch). I think the domestic competition is still not good enough.
We also need plenty of India A tours. Why can’t an overseas tour be preceded by a India A tour? It would be a really good place to try out bench strength just before the actual tour starts.
(This article first appeared at http://i3j3cricket.com/2012/01/25/catalyst-for-change/ )