PREDICTABLY, India has been whitewashed by Australia in the four-Test series. This is the second such loss abroad in the space of six months; in between, India managed to beat the West Indies at home 1-0, with two Tests drawn. In that three-Test series, India was twice outscored in the first innings by what cannot be regarded as anything other than a weak Windies outfit.
After the loss, the Indian team has been at pains to emphasise that it is not “embarrassed” by being hammered in this manner. It boasts two of the three highest run-scorers in Test cricket in its ranks, but, no, it is not embarrassed. It was the top Test nation as recently as May last year, but falling to a rebuilding Australian team – which lost a Test to New Zealand before India arrived – is not embarrassing.
Then exactly what would be embarrassing? Being beaten by Bangladesh or Zimbabwe? If the Indian players have no pride in what they do, they should retire en masse. There are plenty of good cricketers in the country to fill the ranks. In fact, the persistence with players like V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar over the years has excluded a generation of good players from ever making an impact.
Just because a player makes one hundred in a Test series, he should not be considered to be a sure selection. Many players make painful hundreds that more than anything illustrate that they have lost it – Matthew Hayden is a classic example. He made a painful 100 in the final Test of 2005 against England when Australia needed to win to level the series and retain the Ashes. But given that he was a mate of the captain, Ricky Ponting, he was able to prolong his career for another four years.
The Indian cricket authorities are interested in money. But if the selectors do not look to winning abroad, the team’s appeal will fall as happened with the West Indies. When the team from the Caribbean was on top for thr world, they were in Australia every other year because the public wanted to see them. Once they started falling off that perch, they were no longer a drawcard. India will go the same route if it does not look sharp about fielding a winning outfit.
Another thing that the Indian team has refused to acknowledge is that the rise of the Twenty20 game has affected its Test team. This is another blind spot. The Indian board supports the Indian Premier League, hence the cricketers, its employees, cannot be critical of it. But the shortest version of the game has definitely had an impact; last time Sehwag played at Adelaide, he made a sedate 151 in the second innings which enabled India to draw the game. This time he made a jerky 63 during which hardly a stroke went where it was intended to go.
There appear to be divisions within the team with most players not seeming to care whether they win or lose. They are paid massive salaries no matter what happens and keep getting picked over and over again, despite poor performances. Captain M.S. Dhoni seems to have lost interest and was just content to let things take their course during the Tests against Australia.
And in Duncan “Whitewash” Fletcher, they have a coach who seems to specialise in guiding teams to lose all Tests in a series. He did it with England when they played Australia in 2006-07, with India against England in 2011 and with India against Australia in the series that just concluded. The Indian board is definitely getting value for money – it is said that he is paid three-quarters of a million dollars for guiding teams so that they can achieve such results. It is reminiscent of the bonuses bankers are paid these days for achieving losses for shareholders.
India does plays Test cricket abroad in Sri Lanka next, but the conditions there are very similar to those in India. The first real test will come against South Africa at the end of 2013. There is plenty of time for the Indian board, selectors and players to conveniently forget about the whitewashes and start talking themselves up again. Public memory, remember, is woefully short.