What a fall!

There was a touch of the inevitable to India’s spineless capitulation at The Oval, a surrender that was illustrative of the extraordinarily ordinary brand of cricket showcased by M S Dhoni’s men on a most forgettable Test tour of England.

The 4-0 whitewash was no more than Andrew Strauss and his team deserved because they outplayed the unit they deposed as the number one Test team most comprehensively. India might offer multiple excuses, some justified, for their worst outing in more than a decade, but there can be no excuses for four consecutive drubbings, two of them by an innings, in a series where with the honourable exception of Rahul Dravid, India appeared a pale shadow of the juggernaut that conquered the world in April.

Knives have been sharpened and it’s almost certain that heads will roll in the immediacy of this miserable display. India were put through a most stern examination by a team that had everything to gain and nothing to lose, and came up woefully short, found wanting in skills, desire, temperament and character.

Most disheartening was the lack of fight and spirit from a team that has made bouncing back its calling card, raising doubts about the motivational skills of new coach Duncan Fletcher, who inherited an enviable legacy from the well-liked Gary Kirsten. Fletcher can take perverse pleasure in having done his bit for England – he was the England coach for a record 96 Tests – but his immediate task is to haul India out of the morass.

By no stretch of the imagination are India as bad a team as the run of results in England suggest. Saying that, the immediate need is to identify the core group for the future, especially given that batting giants Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar, as well as the injury-prone Zaheer Khan, are on their last legs.

The England tour is perhaps a precursor of things to come. There can’t be immediate replacements for these giants, and more disappointment will be in store when they call it a day. The prudent course of action will be to plan judiciously. That will involve identifying young men with mettle, and reposing faith and confidence in them even in difficult times.

India have gone from number one to number three in the Test rankings in the space of a month. The climb back to the top is unlikely to be as swift or dramatic.

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