India’s overseas future looks worrying

Perplexing: Almost the same team that fought in South Africa and New Zealand despite losing both those series, has seemingly lost its will to compete.

Perplexing: Almost the same team that fought in South Africa and New Zealand despite losing both those series, has seemingly lost its will to compete.  

Cricket: Dhoni’s men will have to redeem themselves in Australia later this year

India’s latest crash in England might seem like a repeat of what transpired during the 2011 tour but the signs now are more worrying.

The last visit which ended in a 0-4 drubbing was the final leg of a few legends, who, after rendering great service for more than a decade and a half, ebbed away. Within a year, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman bowed out and Sachin Tendulkar eventually followed suit in 2013.

Cut to the present, the current squad represents India’s core for the future and that makes the recent 1-3 loss a bigger scare. Relatively, England had the better attack — James Anderson and Stuart Broad were relentless — and even Alastair Cook said: “Number of times Jos (Buttler) and I have been talking at slip and saying we wouldn’t be surviving any of these balls.”

Yet, for a young group, the period of indulgence has lasted a while. What’s perplexing is that almost the same team that fought in South Africa and New Zealand despite losing both those series 0-1, has seemingly lost its will to compete. It wasn’t so bad when the latest tour began with a drawn first Test at Nottingham.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli didn’t prosper at Trent Bridge or even during that fabulous victory at Lord’s, but hope was procured from Murali Vijay (402 runs in the series) and Ajinkya Rahane’s respective tons in the first two Tests. That, allied with Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s all-round skills, was seen as a sign of depth.

But two things happened subsequently and India got thrashed.

Primarily, England reined in its ego. At Lord’s, its batsmen were rattled by Ishant Sharma’s bounce and, while attempting to play hero, lost the plot. The bowlers were no exception.

On the first morning, Anderson and Broad got their lengths awry. All these flaws were ironed out in the last three Tests.

The second issue that derailed India was the inability of Pujara (222) and Kohli (134) to shed their poor form. What seemed an aberration became a full-blown epidemic.

Pujara was a touch late to deliveries that angled in and Kohli remained over-eager around the off-stump. It got worse as even Vijay and Rahane joined the bandwagon, with the latter lobbing catches back to the bowler.

All the grit and patience that Dhoni displayed with the bat did not percolate into his colleagues and the constant collapses left India with no place to hide.

Even during the horrors of 2011, Dravid scored three tons and India posted 286, 261, 288, 158, 224, 244, 300 and 283.

England then was stronger and Cook and his batting peers were in prime form. Sadly now, India is shaking its head in disbelief over a 94 at the Oval that concluded the fifth and final Test within three days.

A minor consolation would be the efforts put in by Ishant, Bhuvneshwar and, to some extent, Varun Aaron though, as Dhoni said, ‘they need to consistently put the ball in the right areas’ because when Joe Root pounded on Sunday, the Indians lost their way.

An unsettled opening pair with just Vijay being a certainty, a misfiring middle-order, a slip cordon that shelled catches and the continuing search for a blue-chip all-rounder are worries that haunt India.

In a week’s time, Dhoni’s men will slip on their blue apparel and play limited-overs cricket.

But, as far as their legacy goes, they will have to seek redemption while setting foot in Australia for a four-Test series commencing in December. Nothing could be harder than that.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 10:39:09 PM |

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