Beleaguered India need to find answers

Alarming fall from grace for Dhoni

Beleaguered India need to find answers

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has seen a dramatic turnaround in fortunes. AP

The question is, the skipper replied, whether the defeat would help the team improve. The fact is India can only improve from here because they have already hit rock-bottom. Three successive drubbings, each bigger than the previous one, have not only robbed India of their number one status but more importantly of their pride and honour.

Notwithstanding India’s good run in Tests in the last two years, the losses weren’t entirely unexpected. England have been playing quality cricket in the last couple of years. They haven’t lost a series since March 2009. In the eight series between then and now, Andrew Strauss’ men have won seven while drawing against South Africa away. Given their form and familiarity with the conditions, the hosts stood an equal chance, if not more, of winning their battle with India.

However, what has been surprising even for the most pessimistic is the manner in which India have crumbled in the face of a constant onslaught from an inspired English side. India did face their fair share of problems on tour. They didn’t have a settled opening pair to begin with, players suffered injuries during the course of games and often the rub of the green didn’t go their way. Still, there are no excuses for losing without offering a fight. Dhoni and company have not only been defeated, they have also been disgraced. If Geoff Boycott says India have looked like Bangladesh, there is little to suggest otherwise.

The problem wasn’t restricted to one department of the game; it was an overall disaster. The bowling was average and the body language smacked of lethargy.

The biggest letdown was their much-venerated batting line-up. “The series never really went our way,” admitted Dhoni. “Most of the sessions were won by them. If you divide the Tests into small sessions, more often than not we were outplayed in both the bowling and batting departments.”

Though Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and to an extent S Sreesanth bowled their hearts out, India’s attack didn’t have the edge in the absence of Zaheer Khan. It has lacked bite and appeared directionless at various stages of the three Tests. The experience of the veteran left-arm seamer was sorely missed as the English batsmen made merry.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the Indian batsmen. They were totally undone by the moving ball and in some cases by the bounce as well. The numbers show a staggering gulf between the two sides. What Stuart Broad (182 runs) has scored in four innings, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman haven’t managed in six hits. Kevin Pietersen (358) alone scored more than the combined tally (315) of these two veterans.

“Not thinking too critically about the batting is very important,” noted Dhoni, who ended his poor run with two brisk fifties in the third Test. “You want to enjoy the game without thinking too much about technique and aspects like how you need to change your game when you go out to different places. It’s (going abroad) just to improve your cricket because 80 percent of the matches you play in India.

“All these away series are there to improve you as a cricketer. What is important is to be yourself and slightly tune your batting if needed to the conditions, just like Formula One cars do depending on the conditions,” he explained.

Only Rahul Dravid (302 runs with two centuries) has shown technical acumen and staying power in the middle. Tendulkar and Laxman have looked fluent during cameos but more than on one occasion, they fell to uncharacteristic indiscretions. The rest, though, couldn’t make the required adjustments the conditions demanded.

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