When Rahul Dravid was appointed as the batting consultant before the Test series in England, every Indian fan, including yours truly, was overjoyed. Suddenly, the atmosphere was electrifying and you got a feeling that BCCI has finally played a blinder in hiring a ‘cool’ customer.
And after 28 years, the victory at Lord’s was sweetly timed with Dravid returning home thinking that the result will do India’s confidence a world of good during the rest of the series.
Then, it all collapsed dramatically as Cook’s men threw the kitchen sink at India. It went bad at Southampton, worse in Manchester but the Oval saw the worst. There were no half-measures from England – they took the aerial root, tightened the screws on India and bounced back like a tracer bullet to win the series.
However, after the annihilation at the Oval, we all got a feeling that something’s gotta give and if you aren’t tired of the clichés already and are still reading this, the news from the centre is that, BCCI is all set to end their ‘foreign coach’ honeymoon as Joe Dawes and Trevor Penny have been awarded well deserved ‘breaks’.
Sorry for all of the above but when the God of clichéd commentary becomes the head of Indian cricket, it’s a little hard not to go overboard. However, before I get rapped on my pads with too many Shastrisms, let’s get back to the matter in hand.
For the upcoming ODI series in England, India would feature an entirely new set of support staff.
- Ravi Shastri – Director of cricket
- Sanjay Bangar, B. Arun – Assistant coaches
- R. Sridhar – Fielding coach
BCCI has flashed and they have flashed hard. But is it what the doctor ordered for Team India? (Sorry, just couldn’t help myself!) Will these changes fix the leaks and transform the mentally battered Indian unit into a winning squad?
The answer is NO. The changes are mostly cosmetic and they have been incorporated to appease the Indian fans. Nonetheless, these moves can be productive if persisted with. Then again, BCCI did persist with Duncan Fletcher and we all know how that panned out. In fact, the persistence has taken Indian cricket a couple of steps back and now, it needs a complete reboot.
That means, bidding goodbye to Duncan Fletcher and MS Dhoni. Often during the England series, Nasser Hussein has heaped praise on Fletcher as being the best man to iron out technical deficiencies in young batsmen. Hussein kept raving about how Fletcher masterminded the Ashes triumph back in 2005 and converted the English tail-enders into better batsmen.
Fletcher made Harmison and Jones better with the bat but he couldn’t sort out Virat Kohli’s technical glitches. Neither could he improve Che Pujara’s batting record overseas. He has failed to cure Shikhar Dhawan’s poking syndrome and hasn’t been able to put a lid on Gautam Gambhir’s jumping jack rendition.
Two whitewashes in a row and now, another English embarrassment – Fletcher needs to go, period. He might have turned England into a potent force, back in the beginning of 2000s, but has done nothing for Indian cricket to argue his cause.
When Gary Kirsten left in 2011, Fletcher had the job to see-off the smooth transition of Indian cricket. The legends were entering the sunset of their careers and a host of exciting young talent was making all the correct noises in the horizon. He botched it up miserably and has failed to deliver on that promise.
MS Dhoni, however, is a different case but he needs to take moral responsibility for this recent failure. As a batsman, he performed remarkably well in adverse conditions but as a captain and a wicket-keeper, this England tour has to be his poorest.
He is a leader of a kind and India will never have a captain like him. India might get captains with better cricketing acumen, but MS Dhoni is a different breed. His unusual ways have brought both success and failures. While he has mastered the art of marshalling his resources brilliantly in the shorter versions of the game, he’s always run out of depth in Tests. He elevated his show with the willow with immense gumption but has failed in inspiring his team to cross to the next level.
MS Dhoni needs to step down from the longer format because right now, he doesn’t have anything more to offer as a leader.
In 2011, he had a mission of rebuilding Indian cricket with new players. When Rahul Dravid retired, Pujara was the answer, Virat Kohli was the heir to Sachin Tendulkar’s throne and Ajinkya Rahane was to slip into the VVS mode. MSD picked his soldiers, laid his ‘process’ in place and asked the fan to hang in.
After three years, the ‘process’ has failed. There is nothing to rebuild because there’s nothing new available. The one’s that failed are the best that he’s got. No wonder, the excuses suddenly lack steel and the sarcasm misunderstood.
However, India is not ready to let him go because the man, who was being groomed for the job, is now clouded with self-doubts. India can’t let him go because we don’t yet have the answer to the question – “Who’s next?”
Still, MSD has gone past his expiry date as a Test captain.
One would normally point fingers at BCCI for being unprepared, but this time we need to understand the problem they face. BCCI hasn’t got a replacement for Dhoni; neither do they have a new man for the coaching job. They didn’t expect the ‘process’ to fail and after Lord’s they, like most of us, actually expected the ‘process’ to bore results.
Now the wheels have come off the ‘process’, so, they have done what they do best – play the ‘Shastri’ card. That’s been BCCI’s quick fix for the last decade. Whenever they run out of ideas, first, they pull out either Shastri or Gavaskar to get a hold of the situation. Then, they arrange a home series against a weaker opposition to get the team back on its feet.
The contingency is in place but Indian cricket is losing the plot, thick and fast. Right now, BCCI needs something (or someone) that’s more result oriented. By clipping Fletcher’s wings, BCCI has showed some intent but for the fans, it’s going to be a really long season.
The questions are tough and the answers unavailable. BCCI needs to mount a time-bound ‘process’, rotate the strike and keep the scoreboard moving until they can find the right answers and the right men for the job. Till then, hope that #ShastriTheSaviour sees us through the crucial phase so that at the end of the day…