This India team has succumbed to heavy defeats quite a few times. Hence, the loss in the opening match didn’t come as a surprise to many. However, the lack of fight in the second match has set off alarm bells. In the Dhoni era in one-day cricket, especially when playing in the subcontinent, it’s strange to see no signs of a fightback.
What is unfathomable is that even taking into account umpiring errors, India were clearly the superior team at the World Cup in the quarter-final at Melbourne, just two months ago.
On paper, India are far superior as they are packed with individual match-winners. But it’s when you play as a team and click as a combination that individual brilliance translates into results. In Bangladesh, it has not happened. In such cases, more than anything else, it’s the dressing room atmosphere that comes into focus.
Even when he suffered nerve-wracking setbacks, captain MS Dhoni was seldom seen losing his nerve, never in public anyway.
Sunday’s was an uncharacteristic press conference, the first occasion when he was babbling, talking about quitting . He had always maintained that he was not a quitter when the team was down. Experts have been quick to point that out.
It’s one of the most humiliating defeats of his tenure. It’s been a tour where the losses go beyond results. Thanks to strange team selections, two of the players seen as the nucleus of the future return with their confidence shaken. After proving himself in difficult, different conditions outside the subcontinent, his captain on Sunday declared that Ajinkya Rahane is not good enough on wickets he has been brought up playing on.
A similar treatment has been meted out to Cheteshwar Pujara in the Test team. He was not on top of his game in England and Australia and was understandably dropped. But if any player deserves a second chance, it ought to be Pujara, by the sheer weight of his performances in the first half of his career.
Instead, meaningless stats and lack of ‘aggressive intent’ are being cited with disastrous consequences. In the post-Tendulkar era, the transition phase in batting was the main challenge, and the nucleus was to be built around Virat Kohli, Pujara, Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma.
The team had embarked on this tour full of confidence bordering on arrogance. It lies shattered.
Dhoni has also put a question mark over the performance of Team Director, Ravi Shastri, by stating in the press conference that the Board should think long and hard before deciding on the new coach. The captain also said that Duncan Fletcher didn’t get his due as a coach.
One of the issues against the team management is a glaring lack of homework for the one-day series. They should have figured out the challenge Bangladesh posed after blanking Pakistan 3-0 a few weeks ago.
It calls for a more active role for the advisory committee of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. Ahead of the Bangladesh tour, it is learnt that one of the trio had voiced his reservations over Shastri’s demand for a free hand in running the team. His argument was that if their suggestions are not going to be taken on board what was the point in having the committee.
It’s about the results. The arrangement could change after the series, depending on how seriously the three legends look at the responsibility of taking Indian cricket forward.