India are lost and ill-prepared: Dileep Premachandran

Even after achieving the No.1 ranking, India have endured a few beatings. South Africa handed out two in 2010, first in Nagpur and then at Centurion. But you have to go back a very long time, to the disastrous Australia tour of 1999-2000, for the last time they were so comprehensively outclassed in consecutive Tests.

That Aussie misadventure, featuring defeats by 285 runs, 180 runs and an innings-and-141, marked the lowest point in Indian cricket’s modern-day history. When they returned home, they would lose twice to South Africa, before events on the field were overtaken by Hansie Cronje’s conversations off it.

The comparisons end there though. Sachin Tendulkar aside, no one in that XI had yet made any consistent claims to greatness. The likes of MSK Prasad and Debang Gandhi quickly vanished without trace. The team that lost at Lord’s and Trent Bridge was very different. With Zaheer Khan missing, the bowling may not have been as good as the Karnataka combination of Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble, but Abhinav Mukund aside, each of these batsmen had at least half a decade of international experience.

There were mitigating circumstances, like the injuries to Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer. But excuses can only stretch so far. They can’t cover a 500-run gulf over two Tests. Over the course of the match, Indian media and commentators launched into robust defences of VVS Laxman [needed, after mischievous suggestions of Vaseline where it shouldn’t be] and the BCCI-IPL. That energy would be better expended on investigating why India’s itinerary has no structure and is instead constructed like a particularly decrepit shantytown.

England already know where and when they’ll be playing Tests next summer. Indian fans have no clue when the next impromptu tour of Sri Lanka or hastily arranged tri-series will be sprung on them. The board has made an effort to fit more Test matches into the calendar, but with a lack of order and method that would appall Hercule Poirot.

England reaped their Ashes rewards last winter partly because of impeccable preparation. India approached this marquee series with no coherent strategy. Some got knackered playing the IPL. Some went and played three Tests in the West Indies. Few arrived in England looking like they were ready for the challenge.

Muhammad Ali, aka The Greatest, once said: “I run on the road, long before I dance under the lights.” India’s players either ran too much or too little, and the only dancing on view in Nottingham was the shabby moves against Tim Bresnan’s searching bouncers.

Even Ali lost sometimes. But what should hurt India is that they didn’t give themselves a good shot at winning.

Dileep Premachandran is an Indian journalist who’s writing a regular blog for The Cricketer throughout the Test series. Follow him on Twitter at @SpiceBoxofEarth

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5 Responses to India are lost and ill-prepared: Dileep Premachandran

  1. Ajit Gupta says:

    Excellent piece, and a balanced one too. Yes, even good teams can have off days. What really hurt me as a fan was India’s complete surrender on Day 3 of the 2nd test. Even if the pitch was flat, there was no apparent attempt to contain the flow of runs. The bowlers conceded 417 runs on a day when the match was slightly tilted in favour of India before the start of play. In second consecutive test, MS Dhoni allowed England to plunder runs in second innings. At least the bowlers could have bowled on one side of the wicket delaying England’s charge. I think the mental exhaustion as a result of too much Cricket has started taking its toll. The high profile South African tour followed by World Cup, IPL and West Indies tour in the lead up to this English sojourn have left MSD and other players drained.
    I do not doubt the potential or capability of this team. But the ability to strike the right balance between matches, rests and prepration has failed majority of the players.

  2. Lee says:

    Firstly, it’s about time you give England some respect and accept that there is a very real chance of India losing this series 4 – 0. Lack of preparation is an old excuse, passed down through the ages from one poor side to another. The facts are that India have been well and truly embarrased, despite winning the toss and therefore bowling first in very favourable conditions. And by some miracle, if Sehwag and the rest come good in Edgbaston, the best India can hope for is a draw, because 9 times out of 10 this toothless attack just simply won’t bowl out this England batting line up twice.

  3. Ramesh says:

    Dileep,

    The plea that India is ill prepared now appears only as an afterthought. In an interview to Cricinfo, Laxman was dismissive about the importance of tour side games. On the morning of the Test, the venerable SMG said that Indians were never one to take these tour games seriously.

    And why were the Indians unprepared? Isn’t IPL duty partly to blame? The new poster boy of inane commentary, Ravi Shastri, was bristling when this obvious correlation was made.

    It appears that when it comes to rational, balanced viewpoints, all Indian commentators are caught short.

  4. Lee says:

    Ramesh,
    Absolutely agree about the balanced viewpoints from Indian commentators.
    Dileep,
    One needs only read your previous article which inspired a barrage of jingoistic comments from incensed and vitriolic Indian cricket fans. The same can be ascertained in almost every cricket forum/blog on the web. Indian cricket commentators, shame on you, for using cricket to fuel and nurture a national superiority/inferiority complex (aka Indian national pride), simply for the purpose of selling newspapers.
    The truth and more balanced view would be that despite what the rankings told us, India’s no 1 position was always a work in progress. The no 1 team has to earn respect and the right to be called the best by beating some of the following in recent times in their own countries; Australia, SA, England, India and Pakistan.
    This Indian team consisting of 3 of the greats in Tendulkar, Dravid and Sehwag had the opportunity to really cement their claim to being the best by beating England in England. The window of opportunity was short however, with the imminent retirement of some these great men. Although the bowling attack is limited, adequate preparation on beating a very good English team would have made it a possibility.
    Instead the culture of fake national narcissism that pervades India was allowed to pull the wool over the eyes of the Indian public and allow the BCCI and IPL to milk their cash cow for all they could.
    My deepest concern is the ramifications of a 4 – 0 series defeat. Will the Indians revert to the IPL and lose interest in Test Cricket completely, (parallels can be drawn to the England football team and the Premier league)? That will be a sad day if it were to come to pass, because the truth is that the IPL is not the global phenomenon the Indians imagine it to be. Great fun though it is, It is mainly an introverted sub-continent craze. It is not real cricket, and will only last as long as the Indian economic bubble (i.e. the western recession). What then for the IPL and Indian Cricket?

    So in truth, Indian, English and World Cricket, needs India to focus and at least draw the next test match and make the test series competitive.
    Longer term, Indian cricket needs to ignore the IPL and all the hype and just focus on producing Test Cricket “Teams” truly capable of dominating everybody in the world. If and when that happens, and Indian fans feel the need to gloat, cheer, even antagonise every foreign cricket fan you come across (just like the Aussies), then the Indian Cricket team would have earned you that right.

    Here’s to balanced journalism across the board, be it in India or anywhere else.

  5. Ramesh says:

    Lee,

    You are right . Brazil have been kings of football for some time now; a small country like Spain produces champion soccer teams, champion tennis stars, champion F1 drivers, yet none of these countries exhibits the type of feral chest thumping that Indian commentators are prone to. A large country like China quietly goes about amassing medals. It does its talking in the arena, not in the commentary box.

    It is one thing to say that the home country commentators are “hitting out” at BCCI, and then to extend that argument to the Indian team. Will criticism of the ECB equate with criticism of England?

    This logic is puerile. Seriously, we expect better from worthy commentators. Their felicity with the English language will not cover up their unbalanced points of view.