World Cup ahead, when will India start planning?

After India’s humiliating capitulation against England in the Test series, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has swiftly turned into action mode. Coach Duncan Fletcher was put on notice and Ravi Shastri was brought in as the director of the team. Bowling coach Joe Dawes and fielding coach Trevor Penney have been asked to go on leave, effectively signalling their stint with the team is over.

But have they done enough? No.Surely, removing two assistant coaches is not the remedy for the ills that have been plaguing this team. It runs deeper than that. We can only hope that the Indian cricket board will take some sterner steps to improve the team’s performance overseas.

India’s record away from home has been getting progressively worse since their tour of England in 2011 and from that trip India have lost 13 of their 17 Tests away from home. There should have been an honest assessment in 2012 after India went down 0-4 to Australia. But amid the clamour, the BCCI chose not to act. They persisted with MS Dhoni when they had a gloden opportunity to hand over the reins to someone fresh. Now, we are told by  the BCCI and many  former cricketers that there’s no replacement for Dhoni. 

India’s inefficiency to land the knockout blow in South Africa and New Zealand, and the disaster in England have proved that this team could do with a different philosophy. They have the Australian way to follow. Australia were in a shambles under coach Mickey Arthur. Players looked unhappy, some of them revolted and were sent back home mid-series, whitewashed against India.

Australia had never faced crisis of such magnitude in their sparkling history as a cricketing nation. They slipped to number five in ICC Test rankings. But they didn’t hide behind excuses. Australia accepted the reality that they had fallen down from the lofty perches of mid 1990s and 2000s, and set about correcting it.

Just three weeks before the Ashes series in England, they brought in old-school yet brutally straightforward Darren Lehmann. They didn’t win that Ashes but showed a lot of fight. Months down the line, Australia regained the little urn Down Under and quickly returned to a position from where they could challenge South Africa for the number one Test ranking.

We may not be tuned for such drastic methods. But the BCCI can take a lot of points from the honesty and desire the Australian authorities showed to turn things around. Australia also benefited from having Michael Clarke, a cracking captain full of imagination and steely purpose. India’s case is different. They have Dhoni. He may be a good limited-overs captain, aggressive and even cheeky at times, someone who can disrupt the opposition’s rhythm. But in Tests, he inexplicably morphs into a passive figure, waiting for opposition to make mistakes and that doesn’t always work with good teams. He showed a rare side of him at Lord’s while asking Ishant Sharma to bowl bouncers at Englishmen.

Hard tour

Now that Dhoni the selectors have decided to continue Dhoni at the top, he can do with some proactive approach. There is a series against the West Indies at home in a month’s time, and it will take a miracle of gargantuan proportion for India not to win that. But the euphoria of an easy series win should not drown some facts. The team’s focus should be firmly on the forthcoming tour of Australia.

Make no mistake, it will be an even harder tour than England. Of course, Mitchell Johnson & Co will test the skill sets of the batsmen on the quick, bouncy tracks. But the Australians will test your character. They will pull you down from your cozy little resting places. There will not be a moment without pressure.

The Indians will have to find their inner mongrel, to borrow an Australian lingo, to do well Down Under. It’s an awfully long tour too, consisting four Tests, a triangular series and then the World Cup.

Just like Fletcher has been put on notice, the least the BCCI can do is ask Dhoni to get his act together or face the axe. Considering that India are sure to do well against the West Indies, Dhoni should be told in no uncertain terms that a similar capitulation in Australia will not be dealt with kid gloves.  

India can also think of getting the services of Rahul Dravid or Anil Kumble on board, at least for the tour of Australia and the World Cup. They were brilliant cricketers. More than that, they were fighters to the core. They know this bunch of cricketers from close quarters. Their presence will also help the younger players massively.

Time has come to act decisively to take Indian cricket forward. Will the BCCI act without any selfish motives?

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