You're down 0-3, you've lost seven straight Tests away from home and you have one shot to salvage what’s left of your pride. What do you do? If you’re Gautam Gambhir and beleaguered India, you set your sights 13 months to the future and look to get even at home, never mind what happens here, whitewash included.
Several reasons have been put forth for the debacle in England last summer and now in Australia -- technical deficiencies, injury woes and tactical blunders. While they may be true to an extent, the outlook of the players towards foreign tours could be the biggest contributing factor. Gambhir felt that India’s seven defeats, starting from the English summer, could be attributed to playing on pitches that assisted seam bowling. “We have seen in the last three Tests and even in England, there was a lot of grass and that helped their seamers,” he said.
"Once these people come to India we should not be hesitant in making turners, and that’s where we would get to know whether they are mentally strong, and (what happens to) the kind of chit chat do they do when we go overseas and they talk about our technique."That’s where they will be tested, and we’ll see how good they are against spin bowling. So, we shouldn’t be hesitant in preparing turners to our advantage, and that has been our strength and if we can do that people should support us rather than saying we should not be preparing turners. We should always be preparing something which is to our advantage."
While it must be admitted that the conditions in England were tailored for the hosts’ bowlers, apart from the MCG Test, where it was tennis ball bounce, the tracks in Sydney and Perth were far from a pacers’ paradise. The SCG track was particularly lifeless after the first two sessions and even the one in Perth was nothing like the ‘green monster’ it had been perceived to be.
At the WACA, in the third Test, Ishant Sharma and Virat Kohli chose to ‘sledge’ David Warner by saying that they’ll see how well he does when the Aussies visit India for a four-Test series in February-March next year. Will Ishant, a pacer who bowled the spell of his life at Perth four years ago, feel more comfortable bowling to Warner on a flat, placid track?
If that wasn’t enough, BCCI president N Srinivasan’s comments that India will beat England and Australia 4-0 on rank turners at home, which he later said were misquoted, were far from encouraging.
While it is true that India should indeed prepare turners for visiting teams and test their mettle against quality spin, the timing of the statement was atrocious. Before the series is over, the mind has already wandered off to the safety blanket of home conditions. Hardly the way to go for a team that quite recently was ranked No 1 in ICC’s Test ratings.
For the last two truly great cricketing teams, home or away was merely a statistic. The West Indies team of the late 1970s and 1980s went 15 years without losing a series, home or away. The predecessor to the current Australia team won on all conditions, including conquering the historic final frontier that was India.
"We need to realise that when we go overseas every country prepares wickets to their strengths,” said Gambhir. “So once the other teams come home we need to prepare tracks to our advantage as well. So, there should not be a lot of talk when Australia or South Africa or England come home that we should not be preparing turners."