PARTAB RAMCHAND | 14 AUGUST, 2018
Mood of despondency
The mood in Indian cricketing circles right now is a mix of anger and frustration, despondency and disappointment. The Indian cricket follower is still to come to terms with the fact that their team which was given a good chance to win the Test series in England by many experts or at worst it was predicted that India would be a match for the hosts are 0-2 down after two Tests.
The Indian cricket fan was a bit disheartened by what happened in the first Test at Edgbaston which was lost by a narrow margin. But now there is a sense of outrage following the unhappy events at Lord’s. A defeat by an innings and 159 runs inside three playing days is bad enough but what has caused immense dismay is the manner in which India were so thoroughly outplayed in every department of the game. At Edgbaston if the batting failed at least the bowlers came through the gloom shining.
This time around there was total failure on every front. The batting lacked the technique and temperament to tackle Anderson and company albeit in conditions that favoured bowling. Admittedly Joe Root won a good toss and predictably put the Indians in to bat when the ball was bound to swing and seam.
But then there have been instances of Indian batsmen taking such adverse conditions in their stride and scoring runs, even centuries. Sunil Gavaskar’s masterly 101 at Old Trafford in 1974 and Rahul Dravid’s heroic 148 at Headingley in 2002 come famously to mind. Even Virat Kohli who spoke of a ``mental weakness’’ admitted that whatever the conditions the players must possess the skill and the determination, the dedication and the concentration to combat them but these age old qualities were sadly lacking. .
Indeed the abysmal showing of the batsmen was a throwback to the hideous days of the 50s and 60s when India lost eleven out of 12 Tests in England and were extremely lucky to draw the remaining one thanks to inclement weather. The fact that the 237 runs put together at Lord’s is the next worst tally after the 140 India mustered at Old Trafford in 1952 when they were infamously bowled out twice in a day underscores the abysmal level of the batting. At least in those formative years India were still feeling their way around in international cricket but there can be no excuses for a side that has some of the best batsmen in the game. .
At least the gallant bowlers held out hope that India could win the first Test but there was little chance of that happening this time. Ishant Sharma a model of inconsistency was back to his wayward ways leaving Mohammed Shammi and Hardik Pandya to try and plug the loopholes. Yes, the choice of a second spinner in place of a third seam bowler in these conditions is a tactic that can be questioned.
But it was not that there was nothing in the pitch for the spinners and under the circumstances the combined figures of no wicket for 112 from 26 overs against the names of Ravi Ashwin and Kuleep Yadav is difficult to fathom.
Following the loss in the first Test the experts came out with the theory that it was not the best team that was fielded. All the suggestions they made were put into place. Shikhar Dhawan was dropped, Cheteswar Pujara was back, Lokesh Rahul was elevated to open the innings and Kuleep Yadav was included. The result was a much heavier defeat.
To be candid there is nothing wrong with the team composition. The Indians are not playing up to their potential, not performing as the No 1 ranked team and as long as that happens there will be no change in the depressing scenario.
Indeed the series has every indication of turning out to be a nightmare for the tourists along the lines of the 4-0 whitewash that their predecessors had to endure seven years ago. Only this time around it could be 5-0 along the lines of the 1959 side that suffered this ultimate humiliation. Unless the Indians lift the level of their game a turnaround in their fortunes can at best remain a dream.