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'India's batting and fielding was a complete disaster in England'

August 21, 2014 12:07 IST

'India's batting and fielding was a complete disaster in England'

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‘I think we never learnt any lessons from our failures in 2011. We were playing five Tests matches against a top team, but there was hardly any preparation for such an important tour.’

Former chairman of selectors Kiran More discusses the Test series debacle in England with Harish Kotian and suggests remedial measures to help the team return to winning ways.

The debacle in the Test series in England has thrown up a lot of question marks over India’s ability to win overseas. After winning the second Test at Lord’s, they were thrashed in the next three matches that followed and lost the five-match series 3-1.

It was their third consecutive series loss to England, including one at home.
With a Test series against Australia scheduled later this year, many believe the team needs to undergo drastic changes immediately to at least put up a semblance of a fight, if not return to winning ways.

Former chairman of selectors Kiran More discussed with Harish Kotian what went wrong for the team in England. He also emphasized what the current selectors must to do get the team out of the rut and make them world beaters again, especially in Test cricket overseas.
 
What do you think went wrong for India in England? This must rank as one of the team’s worst performances overseas in recent years.
I would say preparation is very important when you go on such tours. We should have learnt from the 2011 experience when he had all our top players, like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman among others, but still lost 4-0. At that time the England team was stronger, all the players were at their peak and played some outstanding cricket.
 
I think we never learnt any lessons from our failures in 2011. We were playing five Tests matches against a top team, but there was hardly any preparation for such an important tour. The key to any match is preparation; without it you won’t win anything. 

The Indian team just went there and kept trying things that worked once for them. Then they did not try anything new despite things not working. We played well in the first two Tests, but after that England came back very strongly and totally exposed our batting department. India’s batting and fielding was a complete disaster in England. We kept dropping crucial catches and didn’t bat well, especially the top order. 

The key to the series was the new ball; if we had managed to play out the new ball we would have done very well.

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Image: Indian players wear a dejected look after the fifth Test in England
Photographs: Philip Brown/Reuters

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'England bowlers did a good job by working on the Indian batsmen's weak technique'

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Did lack of runs from Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli hurt India most?
I think England’s fast bowlers did a good job by working on the Indian batsmen’s weak technique. The two senior-most bowlers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, exposed the technique of batsmen like Kohli and Pujara, which put a lot of pressure on the rest of the batsmen. Out batsmen should have worked on their technique in the nets and tried to find a solution for it.
 
I would say England’s support staff worked really hard to find out the weaknesses of the Indian players. The batsmen’s problem areas were discovered and England’s bowlers bowled to a plan and were successful.
 
Even off-spinner Moeen Ali was so successful. I think that was because the Indian team took him for granted; he finished with 20 wickets in the series.

The point to be noted is that none of our Indian spinners even got 10 wickets. That was the main difference between the two teams. If you look at it, we lost the series to Moeen Ali. We were not only done in by the fast bowlers but also lost wickets to spin.

Overall, we did not bat well. That was due to lack of preparation. We need to work hard in the nets and do our homework. Without it, we will not win series overseas.

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Image: Cheteshwar Pujara is clean bowled by Stuart Broad
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

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'Gambhir did struggle in England'

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Was it wrong for India to fall back on veteran Gautam Gambhir? Didn’t he look all at sea in England?
I don’t think so. It was not a wrong move to bring back Gambhir. We needed an experienced player to work with the youngsters. Yes, Gambhir did struggle in England, but even Shikhar Dhawan had flaws and lacked confidence because of which he was dropped.
 
We should give credit to the England bowlers, because they bowled in the right areas and kept creating opportunities.
 
I would say leaving the ball is very important in Test cricket. All our batsmen struggled, except a couple, like Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane. You should know where your off-stump is and leave the ball accordingly. It is the key when playing in conditions like England.
 
The spin department is also a worry for India now? Would you accept Ravindra Jadeja as a frontline spinner in Test cricket? 
We had the experience of our previous two tours, that of South Africa and New Zealand, when we failed to bowl out the opposition to win the Test match. When a spinner cannot do the job on the last day of a Test then I don’t consider him a spinner. After those two failed experiences the selectors should have looked at some other options, looking particularly at the England tour.
 
We do have some good spinners, like Pragyan Ojha. Similarly, there are good spinners in domestic cricket. We need to find them and give them opportunities and take them on tours.

We went with the same team, the same bowling attack and the same game plans, with no change at all in the last 12 months or so.

I think we went in with very poor planning. For this I would blame the team management and selectors.

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Image: Gautam Gambhir walks back after being dismissed by James Anderson
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

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Need to look at some fresh faces

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If you were the chairman of selectors, would you favour wholesale changes to the squad for the next series?

The West Indies is now coming here. That won’t be as tough a challenge as England. We need to look at some other players who have done well in domestic cricket, like Kedar Jadhav. He is a very good batsman and scored lot of runs in domestic cricket the last few seasons. When somebody is in form you need to give them opportunities. I would say Kedar Jadhav is ready for international cricket and he should get a look-in, at least in the ODI team.
 
When you are talking about all-rounders, I think you should consider Akshar Patel who has done well with both bat and ball in the Ranji Trophy as well as IPL.
 
Someone like Naman Ojha (who did well for India ‘A’ in Australia) was called-up for the England Test series (to replace Wriddhiman Saha), but he did not get any opportunity and will come back to India now. He was there for nearly a month but has been sent back without playing a match.

Since our batting was the biggest failure in the Test series, why not try Ojha in the ODI series and see what he is capable of.
 
There is a dearth of good young players in the domestic circuit, at least in the batting department. It is hard to find good batsmen, especially openers, who can bat well on seaming wickets. Why is India’s domestic cricket not throwing up quality players?

We need to create bench strength, which is very important, and give them opportunities as well. When we toured England, maybe the India ‘A’ team could have also toured England and played some matches. We should have allowed our players to play in county cricket. Perhaps, someone like Shikhar Dhawan could have gone there and played some games in county cricket before the England tour. That is how preparation for a tour is done; you just don’t go there and play. You need to plan things out.
 
Now see, suddenly you are allowing Cheteshwar Pujara to play county cricket when the season is nearly over. Last season he could have gone too but nobody went to play county cricket last season.

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Image: Kedar Jhadav
Photographs: BCCI

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No replacement for Dhoni

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni made his debut in international cricket when you were the chairman of selectors in 2004? Do you think his captaincy has reached its shelf life?
Dhoni has done very well on this tour, but if you don’t win there is always a question mark on the captain. The selectors must see how they change that, how they can work things out, what is the future plan, keeping in mind the season ahead and other things.
 
The selectors need to take some strong calls because nobody has done well in the last few months. As far as captaincy is concerned, no other player has done well, so you don’t have any other options at the moment.
 
Do you agree with the sudden move to appoint Ravi Shastri as team director? 
I think it is a temporary thing. You can’t just blame the support staff; everybody has to take the blame. You can’t make a few people scapegoats and carry on.
 
Ravi Shastri is a good choice; hope the team does well under him in the ODIs. However, you need someone who can be with the team for a longer time, because temporary things don’t work.

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Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Photographs: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

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'You cannot depend on the coach all the time'

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Should the BCCI have sacked coach Duncan Fletcher? He failed to inspire the team, while the players failed in the basics in all departments. Is that the coach’s responsibility?
It is not a question of Duncan Fletcher only, but individuals also have to work hard. You cannot depend on the coach all the time. You should also take the initiative to prepare yourself before you go on tours.
 
As a former selection committee chief, what would you say is the way forward for Indian cricket, especially when playing Test matches overseas?
The way forward is winning matches. The selectors need to take some strong calls; if they are not involved then things won’t work well. There has to be proper planning keeping the future in mind.
 
If somebody is doing well (in domestic cricket) then you should select them and make them play at the highest level. It will build some competition in the team. You need to find some good, young players who are doing well and create opportunities for them, because if they are not playing international cricket then they are not going to develop.


Image: Duncan Fletcher
Photographs: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

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