Shake-up after surrender

The toll the collective failure took proved too much for a team which discovered it did not have the mental stamina for a five-Test series.

The Indian cricket team’s >abject surrender in England was shocking, both for the ineptitude on display and the suddenness of its onset after a rare and famous >Test victory at Lord’s. India has now lost 13 of its last 17 overseas Tests. The fear of a return to the dark days of the 1990s, when India won just one of 39 Tests away from the comforts of home, is very real. Seemingly stung into action, the BCCI has made changes in top management. But for the moment they pertain just to the one-day squad in England. It remains to be seen what Ravi Shastri’s mandate as >director of cricket is; but with the BCCI’s history of opacity, it’s unlikely that the results of a performance review — if such a process is conducted — and a blueprint for the future will be made accessible to the followers. For long the Indian Board has been criticised for not prioritising Test cricket, for not arranging its fixtures so off-season development work can be carried on: despite a greater frequency of ‘A’ tours, few Indian batsmen have played county cricket, where they will have come up against James Anderson and Stuart Broad and the moving, bouncing ball. The manner of its addressing these matters among others will reveal if the BCCI’s recent actions are part of a commitment to improvement or mere window-dressing. It has no excuses, however, given its pre-eminence in world cricket, and its financial might.

As things stood, an inexperienced batting line-up couldn’t find solutions in testing English conditions. And the toll the collective failure took proved too much for a team which discovered it did not have the mental stamina for a five-Test series. It didn’t help that India could not call on a bowler of Anderson’s calibre to drag it back into a contest after a batting collapse. Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar showed they could summon match-turning spells, but injury and fatigue, respectively, beset them. If the phenomenon of Indian bowlers losing pace and breaking down continued, so did the tendency of the fielders to drop catches and make taking 20 wickets twice as hard. India’s opening partnership averaged 21.9 in the series, not the sort of platform Tests can be won from. Murali Vijay was the team’s leading scorer with 402 runs; a major share of that aggregate, however, came in the first two Tests. Ajinkya Rahane and M.S. Dhoni had their moments, but the failures of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli were disheartening. Reputations are enhanced through exploits overseas, and India’s young cricketers have to find a way. They, more than anyone else, should know that for all their stardom and their success in the shorter forms of the game, Test cricket is the ultimate benchmark. In that, India has floundered.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 1:05:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/india-england-test-series-shakeup-after-surrender/article6335654.ece

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