The pain of another winless overseas tour would have left India grappling with doubts. The demoralised unit will have questions to answer and faith to be restored. It is only the reversal of on-field performances that can bring the Men in Blue back on track.
With more familiar conditions waiting in Bangladesh for the Asia Cup, there is hope. Yet, the route may not be as smooth. While they say it is hope that kills, there is another factor to chalk India’s downfall – a mismanaged schedule.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chopped the team’s tour to South Africa in December to just three ODIs and two Tests. While the primary reason was the Board’s tussle with Cricket South Africa chief, Haroon Lorgat, the BCCI maintained it wanted the players to have adequate rest before the tour.
With the South Africa tour ending on December 30 and India playing the first ODI in New Zealand on January 19, the players had a luxurious break. What the BCCI did not think of is the jammed schedule before the Asia Cup, which would be further stifling in view of the failed foreign tours.
No easy series
“We have a long season ahead with the Asia Cup, World T20 and IPL,” pondered skipper MS Dhoni after conceding the series to New Zealand. “I have been captaining India since 2007. Not once has there been an easy series. Even when we travel to Bangladesh it is tough.”
Once the tedious journey from New Zealand to back home, stretching close to 20 hours, drew to a close on Wednesday night, most of the members would not have got a break of even 72 hours before hopping on to the flight to Bangladesh on Sunday morning.
On his return, Virat Kohli was left wondering how he would cope with the jet lag. “Jet lag would be a challenge in the next few days,” he (@imVKohli) tweeted.
If it is difficult for the players to rest and be with their families, it is worse for a team attempting to regroup and bring in a fresh approach.
By the end of the Wellington Test, as Brendon McCullum was scripting a rare story of defiance, Dhoni painted a tired picture with jaded ideas.
A 6-3 leg-side field for Ishant Sharma was hardly adding to India’s chances of a breakthrough. Add to it Ishant’s outburst at Zaheer Khan’s slow return from the boundary.
Apart from injuries, fatigue can force a player to work in a manner that does not propel the team’s progress. A week after the Asia Cup, the World T20 will be upon them, and close to the heels will be the Indian Premier League.
This will be followed by the tour to England, where India will have to brace for a five-Test challenge, the 0-4 humiliation in 2011 still fresh. Surely, the South Africa and New Zealand tours could have been spaced out to ensure adequate rest for the players before they went to Bangladesh?
For a team starved of wins, injuries due to a packed schedule would be a disaster.