Indian cricket is at a critical juncture. The innings defeat in Perth — the seventh successive Test loss overseas, caused by another failure of the batting in the face of consistent, quality bowling — was an illustration of how far the former World No.1 has fallen. It was not just that India was stripped of its crown in England; the abjectness of the performances in these seven Tests has made people wonder how on earth the honour was earned in the first place. That is an unfair view. In the decade since the turn of the millennium, India under Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, and M.S. Dhoni added another string to its bow. Traditionally very difficult to beat at home, India began to travel assuredly. Series wins in Pakistan, the West Indies, England, and New Zealand materialised; there were also defining drawn series in Australia and South Africa, the first to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the second to hold on to the No.1 ranking. India began 2011 with a Caribbean win, but gloom descended thereafter. Unlike in England, where injuries mitigated the dejection of defeat slightly, there has been no place to turn to for comfort in Australia. For the current squad is India's best at the moment; the critical mass, the great batsmen and the bowling spearhead, hasn't changed greatly from the team that had success abroad in the previous decade.
This, however, isn't a time for panic. Annihilation can be dispiriting, but it cleanses the mind, creates space for renewal. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case with the BCCI, judging from the tenor of the Board's awards ceremony in Chennai (where there was no reference to the 4-0 drubbing in England) and other indications. When England suffered a clean sweep in Australia, it commissioned the Schofield Report; when Australia then lost the Ashes at home, it put in place the Argus Review. There was systemic change, envisioned and executed by passionate, intelligent, thoughtful people. Thus far the reaction of India's cricket administration has been near-sighted. India got to No.1 because a group of extraordinarily skilled, singularly determined cricketers rose above the system. But dominance was always going to be beyond them; it required the next generation, developed in a world-class structure and transitioned seamlessly into Test cricket. But the BCCI wasn't proactive. Several long-term issues remain as a result. The most important is the quality of pitches domestic cricket is played on, for this has the most direct influence on bowlers and batsmen. The very structure of domestic cricket and the priorities in scheduling the three formats also need rethinking. In the short term, a transition needs planning. It will be a test of the Board's intent and intelligence, and a portent of India's cricket future.
Keywords: India's tour of Australia