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India Has Looked Weary and Stale

14 August 2011.

Over the last few days, two teams have summoned the focus demanded in the unforgiving Test arena. England has been superb, an executioner in white clothes. Zimbabwe, too, played with unsuspected maturity. Contrastingly, India and Bangladesh have been abject. Test cricket exposes weaknesses and reveals strengths. That is its beauty and primary purpose. Defeat awaits an under-prepared or complacent side

Bangladesh’s problem can be found in a weak and well nigh bankrupt domestic system that tolerates the amateurish approach observed in the leading players. Evidently, emerging cricketers are not put through their paces. No sign of improvement has been detected and a lot of talent is going to waste.

India vs England at Edgbaston

India versus England at Edgbaston, 2011.
Photo ©: los_bandito_anthony /

Various reasons

India’s calamitous defeat has other causes. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team has not suddenly become inept, lazy or headstrong. Just that winning Tests requires a strong mind as well as superior skills.

India has plenty of ability but looks weary, old and stale. Intensity is needed to bring down an opponent as committed as England. Without it, all is lost. English minds have been razor sharp. The Indians’ brains resemble blunt instruments.

Several factors lie behind India’s decline. On that fabulous evening at Wankhede, Dhoni’s men climbed to the top of the mountain. It was a breakthrough long in the making and longer in the celebrating. To walk around the streets of Mumbai that night was to sense the exhilaration.

Difficult to absorb

Success, though, can be as difficult to absorb as failure. Both can disturb the rhythm of a team. Sri Lanka took years to recover from its World Cup victory in 1996.

Everyone kept talking about it, presenting awards, putting on dinners. It was a natural response but not one likely to renew ambition. Similarly, the South Africans took time to recover from thumping the Aussies in their own backyard, and were trounced by them a few weeks later.

India had no time to rejoice in or recover from its brilliant World Cup triumph. Within days, the champions were back on the road, playing against each other in the IPL. An exciting journey had been turned into a treadmill.

Along the way conditioning was lost. It is not possible for any athlete to remain at peak fitness for months on end. Three players were injured in the next few weeks, and none has played a full part in the current Test series.

Nor were IPL commitments the end of it. A ludicrous programme was imposed on the team. After IPL came a tour of the Caribbean and then the team was sent to England. India’s administrators let the players down. Alas, most senior voices in Indian cricket are so compromised that they tip-toe around these issues.

However, it’s not only about mistakes off the field. Indeed they can become a smokescreen. India has been strong for 15 years and its current batting order counts amongst the finest the game has known. All good things, though, come to an end. By the looks of things, that time is at hand.

Meanwhile India ought to save its old guard for Test cricket and start building a team for the 2015 CWC. It is time to look ahead.

This article was written for The Hindu.
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