India's abject surrender in England has sparked a debate, causes for the shocking loss have been analysed, blame apportioned and sensible suggestions about the way ahead articulated.
While attention has focussed on poor planning, unfortunate injuries and tough conditions, India's
fielding failure has largely slipped under the radar. Nasser Hussain made a tactless, and offensive, comment about our fielding which outraged many but looked at in a cold, dispassionate manner, the fact is he spoke the truth. Put bluntly, India's fielding is a shame. Compared to contemporary benchmarks we are way behind. The only other team competing with us is Pakistan.
Fielding and fitness, though such an integral component of international cricket, is low priority for India, which is why an unfit, well-fed Zaheer Khan turned up at Lord's and a well-rested RP Singh made the team later on.
For Indian cricket to move forward, the players have to step up and assume responsibility. There are lot of things that they have no influence over. Yet, as sportsmen, they know the value of dealing with what is in their control. It is time they ask themselves some tough questions. Fitness and commitment, for instance, is not for the BCCI to sort out but an individual thing. Each player has to address that himself and do what it takes to turn up for India with the best possible preparation.
Yes, there are difficulties and distractions, and there are examples of talented players losing focus, but it is for each player to keep his eye on the ball, something that Rahul Dravid, at 38, has done in a splendid manner One reason why England are consistently superior is that they carefully ticked every box and looked at every detail.
The compelling image through the series (besides India's struggling batsmen) was Matt Prior sprinting to change ends after every over - he did that at Lord's in the first Test, he did it every time in the series. This is not to argue that England won because of this but Prior and the close-in fielders running across between overs demonstrated energy and enthusiasm.
Clearly, England's athleticism and hunger is too evident. Contrast this with the negative body language of the Indians who look spent and uninterested. Some even give the impression they need a golf cart to reach their fielding positions.
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