Monday, 19 September 2011

An unmitigated disaster

The dust has not yet settled on India's tour of England- an outing that one can only describe as a disaster without parallel in the recent past. England proved the superior side in every department of the game, just walking all over the hapless Indians.

Admittedly injuries only contributed to the mayhem that ensued. The list of injured players (Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Gautham Gambhir, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Praveen Kumar, Yuvraj Singh) threatened to become sufficient to constitute a whole eleven. That one single fact, if not the result, is itself a damning indictment of the manner in which the tour was (mis)managed.

Now England is one of the toughest places in the world to tour. England have consistently been a force to reckon with at home over the last decade, losing only 2 series. Those defeats since came against the Indians in 2007 (a 0-1 loss) and the Proteas in 2008 (a 1-2 loss in a hard fought series)- both of them sides with strong/ powerful attacks. Under the circumstances, it did not need a genius to know that a very tough challenge lay ahead.

So what did the BCCI do to get their players ready for the tour? They arranged one solitary warm up game for the team to acclimatise itself to conditions far removed from those in any other test playing country. That game itself came just 5 days after a tour of the west Indies. In other words, the BCCI arranged seven weeks of meaningless IPL games, coming close in the heels of an emotionally and physically draining world cup, followed that up with a tour of the West Indies and then left all of 5 days for the players to prepare themselves for one of the toughest tours in the contemporary game.

Was it any wonder that the players who took the field in the series were physically and mentally exhausted? The situation could have been salvaged had there been fresh replacements ready to take their place. What we got instead was the spectacle of an overweight, unfit R.P. Singh delivering a wide that symbolised India's surrender. Picking up a man who was in the middle of a vacation in Miami ahead of one who was in the reserves (Munaf Patel) is a decision that defies all sane logic. If Patel did not enjoy the confidence of his captain or the selectors, then why was he in the squad in the first place?

And just when you thought that they could not make a bigger hash of it, the selectors produced one last ace in the sleeve in Varun Aaron. When you pick a young man who is supposed to be the fastest bowler in the country for a series in which your side is struggling, you expect that the young man is going to be unleased on the opponents. But the selectors in their infinite widsom decided to have one of the most promising young fast bowlers in the country carry the drinks, even as his seniors were being belted to every corner of the park.

Then there was the small matter of Ravindra Jadeja. Personally I have nothing against Jadeja. Nevertheless, the brain freeze that cost 4 precious runs in a tied game was by no means the first instance of his temperament proving suspect in a pressure situation. Quite how a consistent matchloser (to coin a new term) like him gets to be a regular member of the team is a puzzle that could perhaps merit an episode in CID.

God forbid, this tour brought back memories from the 90s. As anyone who has followed Indian cricket long enough would tell you, the 1990s were by far the worst decade in India's cricketing history. Thanks to the gentlemen at the BCCI, India is now back to the mid table mediocrity that was its lot back then. Only, now they have a lot more money than their counterparts in those bad old days. India is now the new Upper Volta with rockets.

Footnote: As I wrote this article, the new Chairman of the BCCI announced the setting up of a committee to look into the causes of the debacle. Hopefully this could be the beginning of a return to sanity.

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