It has been a troubled passage to England. The Indian cricket team's tour has turned into a nightmare with two straight Test defeats, and there are ominous signs that India might lose its No.1 Test ranking by the end of the series.

Critics have been quick to trash the team's performance and Sunil Gavaskar has gone to the extent of comparing the current India vs. England series as a contest between a schoolboy's team and a professional squad. M.S. Dhoni, the darling of the Indian media, hailed as the ‘lucky captain' and ‘captain courageous', seems to have run out of luck in the harsh realities of Old Blighty

But while the detractors have a field day at India-bashing let us also give the team its due. Flying straight after a tour of the West Indies, where virtually a second string Indian team had won both the Test and ODI series, it was foolhardy to think of an Indian summer in England. Playing a much stronger team without proper preparation, the setbacks that were in store was only expected.

From the Lord's Test onwards, India has been plagued by injuries. Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir and now Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh, are on the injured list. A jaded team capitulated dismally in both the Tests despite showing a glimmer of hope through its bowlers. The batting has been inept against the pace and swing of the English trio of Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and James Anderson. Neither the top order nor the tail showed any tenacity to stand up, with the lone exceptions of Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman. The veterans showed the way, but the others did not follow and that raised doubts about the Indian technique. The Delhi dasher, Virender Sehwag returns for the third Test and his electrifying presence at crease, everyone hopes, would inject a sense of self-belief. Even if that doesn't materialise and India falls from its No.1 perch, there's no need to panic. Rankings are illusory and what matters is that India's capability as a strong Test playing nation should be revived. Indian cricketers have been overworked with back-to-back series, the World Cup and the IPL. BCCI must prioritises its schedule so that players are rested between their international commitments. The focus should be more on playing Tests, the ultimate test of calibre. It's just not enough to have the World's best XI on paper, what we need is a fully fit XI.

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Match PointJanuary 13, 2011

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