Some of life’s most unnerving moments present themselves in the disguise of late realization. Much like a death row inmate protesting his innocence amidst a chorus of guilty chants, the moment of reckoning can be hard to reconcile with, which is why that moment is postponed until the inevitable occurs. That moment has finally come to pass in Indian cricket.
Over the last 15 months, it seems Indian cricket has been in a remarkable hurry to turn back time and relive the 90s for us. With India ceding a home series after 8 years, we seem to be taking revenge on ourselves rather than the opposition.
A fall that began with the tour to England has only been exacerbated over the last 15 months. Though the team has fallen short on most counts, what it isn’t short of is excuses. In England, it was the conditions. But a team that truly deserves its number 1 status doesn’t complain about conditions. And of course, there was the IPL, our favourite punching bag to find succor in whenever the s**t hits the fan. It wasn’t as if the team was turned topsy turvy and India B took the field. Save for Rahul Dravid who seemed to bat like a man possessed, the team looked like it was still getting over the world cup hangover in England.
Whatever the odds, a 4-0 score line is unacceptable, especially when you enter a series as world champions. Strangely, we found solace in excuses – fitness, conditions, lack of form. The whitewash wasn’t even reviewed by the BCCI. Even Rahul Dravid hoped it was an aberration in his superlative Bradman oration.
In Australia, it was thought that everything was sorted. The magnificent trio would bow out in a blaze of glory and India would win their first series in Australia. Halfway through the tour, the excuses waltzed their way out of hiding. The famed lineup was ageing, they had to go. Rahul Dravid, who looked like he could do no wrong in England, suddenly had his stumps rearranged every time he went out to play. VVS Laxman’s magic seemed to have deserted him and he looked like a magician trying to conjure up something extraordinary with a magic wand that had outgrown its usefulness. Sachin Tendulkar was in search of his 100th ton, and the Indian team was in search of redemption, which was also elusive.
Post the horrendous Australian tour, Rahul Dravid and VVS laxman announced their retirements in a span of 4 months. So that was done and dusted. There would be fewer slow legs in the outfield and the new talent would finally get its due. Redemption was a series away. No hostile conditions, no ageing players bar one, no injuries to key players. Revenge would have a field day.It seemed, after the first test match at Ahmedabad, that the team came within kissing distance of redemption. The losses would be redeemed and the good days would be smile back at us again.
If anything, this series debunked most of the theories and saw right through the smokescreen. Everything was in India’s favour – the pitches, the side, the conditions, but they still came up short and ended England’s 28 year wait for a series win in India. The last time India went through a transition was at the turn of the century when the match fixing scandal forced the team to look inward. Most of the men who were at the helm of that transition – Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are not playing anymore. It would be safe to say the present team doesn’t as yet match up the quality of that lineup.
Instead of drawing parallels and giving vague answers to shortcomings, it would do Indian cricket good to ask better questions. And get down to answering them without the crutches of excuses.