After India won the first Test of this series comfortably, it appeared to be on the verge of embarrassing England in conditions which have proved challenging before.
Two Test matches later, India is looking down the barrel of another series loss that will be even more galling than losing to England and Australia abroad. How has India lost its way so badly?
Having struggled in the UAE against Pakistan earlier in the year, England was forced to reconsider the makeup of its team and the way it approached playing cricket in the sub-continent.
England did not get the balance of the team right in Ahmedabad, but since then it has shown a single-minded focus on doing what needed to be done. It committed itself to hard work and was prepared to make tough selection decisions.
India, on the other hand, has distracted itself by focusing on the type of pitches that it wanted rather than doing the hard work required to finish off an opponent which was on the ropes. Rather than insisting on spin-friendly surfaces, India would have been better advised to work hard on the basics of its game.
The Indians would do well to heed the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita which urges one to do one’s duty with no anticipation of the result, and without succumbing to inaction.
For many weeks now it seems that an inordinate amount of time and energy has been invested in what type of pitch India needs to have presented to it. If all that time and energy had been spent on preparation and planning, the results in the last two Test matches may have been very different.
It was unedifying to witness the battle between the captain and Prabir Mukherjee over what type of pitch was wanted for the Eden Gardens Test match.
Instead of the impassioned battle in the media, time spent on developing a group with a passion for a tough contest may have yielded better results.
I agree with Mukherjee who was quoted as saying “Games should be decided by the quality of the player, not the pitch.” Mukherjee held a mirror up to the Indian team’s mindset and the resultant reflection told a tale of a team focused on the wrong things.
In my experience, worrying about things that are not core issues is a poor use of time and energy. It would have been far better to focus on doing the basics well. That is; bowl with discipline, bat with patience and perseverance, catch everything that should be caught, save singles and make some run-outs.
These are the principles that successful cricket teams swear by.
England has done this better than India in two of the three Test matches so far and is consequently leading in the series.
India on the other hand, has been distracted by focusing on the pitch conditions rather than mentally preparing for the Tests. If the captain is distracted, you can bet the rest of the team will be.
Back to basics
The Indian team needs to go back to basics and let the groundsmen worry about the type of pitches to prepare. Most pitches in India are going to spin at some stage or the other anyway, so best to focus on making sure the team is primed for the battle.
Fitness and fielding are two areas that have been bugbears of Indian teams for decades. If the players are not prepared to work hard enough in these areas, then they should not be selected.
Talent is one thing, but hard work is an imperative ingredient of success.
It is better to have a team that is going to leave no stone unturned to win than a bunch of individuals who think that they have earned the right to play based on previous performance.
Current form and commitment are critical components.
Test cricket, as the name implies, is more than a test of which team has the most talent. Desire, passion, courage and the will to fight to the death are paramount.
On paper there is not much between these two teams. The difference is that England has been the more committed to doing whatever needs to be done to finish on top.
Apart from batting and bowling better, it is much fitter and it has worked much harder on the field. This will have proven to be the difference unless India changes its mindset and focuses on the type of cricket that it plays, rather than the type of pitch that it plays on.
The selectors have made their move. Now it is up to the players to play with pride and passion.
It is not enough just to be in the team. Each individual must want to be the one to make a difference.
England committed itself to hard work and was prepared to make tough selection decisions, says Greg Chappell