To save the fourth Test, and consequently a series whitewash, Team India doesn't need change, but commitment, says Bikash Mohapatra.
The great Indian cricket dream is over. One that witnessed the national team achieve, among other things, the No.1 ranking in Tests, a first series whitewash over Australia, a significant draw away in South Africa and, most importantly, a first World Cup triumph since 1983.
It was in the final stage of this dream that a second string Indian side won an ODI and Test series in the West Indies recently.
However, the ongoing tour of England hasn't been anything short of a nightmare.
Beginning from the first practice game against Somerset (at Taunton), the visitors have gone from bad to worse each passing game.
India's thrashing this series can be attributed to complacency
Then, there was Edgbaston. A resounding innings and 242 run pounding that not only ensured a humiliating series loss for the visitors but also cost them the top ranking.
Complacency is a curse!
It is also something the thrashing Team India has received on its tour of England can be attributed to.
How else can you explain a much-talked about batting line-up failing to score beyond 300 in the six innings played?
What made all the big names perform below expectations at the same time? Why were many of the not-so-fit players selected in the first place?
Many such questions find an answer in the one word mentioned above: complacency.
The odds were heavily stacked against the home team
When Team India landed on English soil, it had a lot going for it -- the No.1 ranking, the tag of World champions, and a second successive series triumph in the Caribbean for that matter.
Besides, the fact that the team had won the last time they had played a series in England -- a 1-0 result in 2007 -- as also the fact that the hosts hadn't beaten India in a Test in almost five years also weighed considerably in favour of the visitors.
Yes, England had done well in recent times. But so had India -- not losing a Test series in more than three years -- since the 2-1 reverse in Sri Lanka in August 2008.
The odds were heavily stacked against the home team. Many experts opined England didn't have enough bowling firepower to bowl this Indian team out twice in a Test. The English batting is good, they said, but not good enough to intimidate the Indian bowlers.
The results were a sharp contrast. It was home team that defied all predictions and dominated the series, each result being more comprehensive than the previous.
Many Indian players are overworked
While Lord's and Trent Bridge was all about failing to cash in on the opportunities gained, Edgbaston was a colossal disaster -- one of the biggest margins of defeat in the history of Indian cricket. The home team had bowled out the visitors in each of the six innings played.
The embarrassment of three successive Test defeats -- India had not lost in successive Tests since January 2008, following defeats to Australia in Melbourne and Sydney -- and the loss of the top ranking can be compounded with a first series whitewash since January 2000 (3-0 against Australia) should India lose the fourth Test at The Oval.
Besides, the team had a succession of players succumbing to injuries and getting ruled out of the series -- Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh et al. While the one who returned from injury (Virender Sehwag) was conspicuous by his lack of fitness, clearly indicating he hadn't fully recovered. There are also many who are overworked, thanks largely to the team's endless schedule.
Form has been a large worry for the Indian team
Fitness apart, form has also been a worry.
While the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni and Ishant Sharma have been inconsistent in their performances, others like Gautam Gambhir, Abhinav Mukund and S Sreesanth have grossly underperformed.
If consistency is taken as the lone barometer, only two Indian players make the cut. Rahul Dravid was among the runs and Praveen Kumar took wickets regularly.
However, two players don't make a team. That precisely is what ails India.
Making changes in the team for The Oval Test, giving the likes of Virat Kohli, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha et al an opportunity, might seem the next logical decision. However, to expect them perform immediately would be asking for a bit too much.
If the team is to save the fourth Test, and consequently a series whitewash, it doesn't need change but commitment, the seniors in the team, especially, need to take more responsibility.
Indian dreams of a second successive series triumph in England may have not come true. It is up to the players, therefore, to ensure they at least came out of their nightmare soon.