Hours after India lost the fourth Test to Australia, dark clouds ominously hung over the Adelaide sky. Darker clouds now float over India's cricket team. Many, the cricketers and BCCI included, thought the debacle in England was a mere aberration, but this series proved something to the contrary.
The question on everyone's lips is, where does Indian cricket go from here? The answer? Oh, it isn't so simple.
Much has been said and written about the holy trinity of India's batting for the past decade and a half - Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. Dravid, touching 39 and coming off an Indian summer in England just a few months ago, started the tour positively enough. He gave a Bradman Oration which again confirmed he was the most cerebral of the trio, Tendulkar being the most iconic and Laxman the most mesmerising.He started on a strong note in Melbourne, hitting a fifty. Even luck seemed to be on his side, as he was bowled by Peter Siddle off what eventually turned out to be a no-ball. By the time he came out to bat in Adelaide even the stumps were asking for pads, as on-air commentator Kerry O'Keefe mockingly said, but not entirely in jest — Dravid was bowled six times in eight innings here. He then quashed rumours his retirement was imminent.
Tendulkar ended the series as India's leading run-getter, but when R Ashwin has the third highest average of the series, that statistical nugget counts for little. However, the one who looked truly out of synch was Laxman, who in all his previous visits to Australia had feasted on the Australian bowlers. Like England, he was found wanting even here. The dismissal in the second innings in Adelaide was symbolic of his waning powers. He tried to flick a Nathan Lyon delivery from off-stump, only succeeding in falling to a trap set by Michael Clarke.
Captain MS Dhoni, for so long the man with the Midas touch, suddenly looks less and less like a Test player, something which he himself acknowledged and said he will consider giving up Tests altogether to help extend his career, much less a Test captain. The way Wriddhiman Saha performed in Adelaide has shown the selectors that a ready replacement is available.
Virat Kohli was about the lone bright spot for the Indian batting in this series. With Rohit Sharma waiting in the wings, India has at least two batsmen who can hold sway for the next decade.
What of Virender Sehwag, who has now gone four years without hitting a Test ton outside the sub-continent? Four years back, he hit a match-saving second innings hundred at Adelaide, this time around he tried to win a 500-run target off his own bat. But when you live by the sword, you die by it.
The bowling of Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav, who alongwith Kohli has been the find of the series, brought something to cheer about. Young Umesh has shown he has the credentials to become a potential leader of the bowling attack in the years to come. But four years ago even Ishant left a similar impression, only to taper off.
Who should retire, who should come in, who should make way, who should be promoted up the order, who should captain? These are all questions that the BCCI must now answer. Will they?