India's back-to-back losses to the West Indies and Sri Lanka within a week of being flawless against the best in the world, has been baffling.
Experts in India are not surprised, though. They feel the blame is not on the players doing duty in the Caribbean but on the Board.
Exhausted, listless, disinterested, are some of the words being used to describe the Men in Blue. From the four-Test Australia series (Feb 22 to March 24), the players went into the two-month long domestic T20 League (April 3 to May 26), and within three days headed for the Champions Trophy. From England, the Board flew the players straight to Jamaica for the tri-nation tournament.
The resentment is more because the tournament was not part of India's original schedule, but was adjusted by the Board for the sake of the T20 League.
According to the Future Tours Programme (FTP) stipulated by the International Cricket Council, instead of the one-day series, the West Indies were to host Sri Lanka for two Tests, three ODIs and one T20. Apparently, the basis for the change was that the bilateral series clashed with the closing stages of the League, and it would have meant losing the leading Sri Lanka and West Indies players.
Given that only India bring in the money, most Boards are more than happy to welcome any change if it ensures India's participation. However, for India, it has come at the cost of their team's performance.
So sharp and incisive in England, the team has looked a pale shadow of itself in the West Indies. And, their fittest player, MS Dhoni, has become the first casualty.
"Agreed that everyone wants to play against India, but we have to think about fatigue. The players should be given a minimum of three-week break between every tournament. They have not got the chance to celebrate their Champions Trophy win; they have not been honoured. These are small things, but they do affect the performance of the team," said former India player and manager Chetan Chauhan. "They should have been brought home to savour the victory."
"In any major tournament, the involvement, commitment, training, saps your energy, mentally as well physically, and it is showing in the team after they gave their all in the Champions Trophy," said Chauhan.
Former Board secretary JY Lele fears the players will burn out before the main draws of the season, against Australia and South Africa. "It (schedule) is nonsense," said Lele. "Heading to Zimbabwe from there is even more foolish. The team should have had a two month-break to be fresh for Australia's one-day tour. During our time, there was no cricket in July, August and September."