By Veturi Srivatsa
Another Test is behind India, leaving a lot of ifs and buts. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is right it doesn’t matter how close you were to winning – what matters is the end result. India were beaten by four wickets to go down 0-2 in the four-match series.
Looking at the Australia’s scorecard in the second innings, losing six wickets to get to the target of 128 might make fans wonder what would have happened if India had scored another 50 or 100 runs. Then the Australians would have found their tail wagging as it did in the first innings to take their side to cross the line.
This business of the team being young and inexperienced or some players being at the end of their careers is unacceptable once they are selected to do a job. In 2011, it was said the seniors had little motivation as they were on their last tour Down Under. Now the side is raw, the average age being 26-27. By the time they again go to Australia four years down the line, they will be into their 30s and by Indian standards will be too old unless one is a Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid or a V.V.S. Laxman with loads of talent.
If anyone thought the series would be very close and even that even India can win, it is only because the Australians do not have a team that looks as good as any of their predecessors. In both the Tests, India appeared to have thrown it away from positions of strength.
If it is any consolation, the Indians had more than their moments in both the Adelaide and Brisbane Tests. But then, this is not the first time they looked good to win. It happened in South Africa and it also happened in New Zealand when Brendon McCullum was allowed to score double and triple centuries in the two Tests. That the triple century came when his team was 84 for five and went on to post 680 runs to deny India a massive victory.
Similarly, in England, India began the series well, scoring 400 in the first innings at Nottingham and close to another 400 in the second in the drawn Test and then won the second Test at Lord’s. After that the usual sob story. The team was unrecognisable.
So, it is not that the Indians cannot bowl or bat on overseas pitches, it is just that they can’t sustain this for the entire series. It is understandable you can miss out in two-Test series as they did in South Africa and New Zealand, but not in a four or five-Test series after making decent starts and even looking like winning.
Dhoni had answers for the “debacle” as he termed it on the penultimate day. He was open in saying that there was a communication problem when Shikhar Dhawan did not want to resume his innings on the fourth morning, having injured his wrist at he nets. Virat Kohli was told about going out a few minutes before the start of play and that surely would upset any batsman. Worse, when Dhawan came out he batted fluently, raising doubts about his mental makeup.
The Test was lost in the second session on the third day when Steven Smith and Mitchell Johnson pulled their side out of serious trouble. When both were dismissed the Indian team looked like gaining a handy lead but it allowed the tail to wag and lost the initiative. What they did is to get Johnson to get back his bowling rhythm and also his batting touch.
Of course, some will complain about the umpiring and justifiably so as they were mostly at the receiving end. Most cricketers worldwide must be having a chuckle in vicarious pleasure seeing the misery of the Indian batsmen as it was the Indian board that is opposed to the Decision Review System (DRS).
Players have pulled their hair in frustration when they were at the rough end of the umpiring in international matches against India because they don’t have the benefit of DRS. Even the majority of the Indian players have been unhappy at times but they had to give in to the whims and fancies of some senior players.
The philosophy that everything evens out may be true when individuals count their good and bad umpiring decisions. But in the overall context of the match, these decisions surely have an impact. A legitimate question is why can’t the umpires check with the third umpire if they are in doubt just as they do in the case of low catches and the no-ball after a wicket falls?
The umpires must check the bat-pad-glove decisions with the third umpire just as they do with run-outs and stumpings even if they are sure the batsman is out by yards.
India should set out to make amends for the two losses which they should not have with a little care and application. They should go to Melbourne with the knowledge that they can take on this team. And they should.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)