December 10, 2012

'Slack, loose and appalling'

Reaction to India's defeat in Kolkata has been strong. In the Telegraph, Geoff Boycott says India have failed to realise they are not as good as they think they are. He feels the primacy of shorter versions of the game in India has affected their mindset and technique in Tests.

Now the batsmen make so many sloppy errors, loose shots and have technical deficiencies in footwork. I have never seen an Indian batting side play such slack, loose and appalling shots in their own country. This is their own territory where they have reigned supreme. They usually bat people out of the game. Now they couldn't bat their way out of a paper bag. And this is the fundamental problem with Indian cricket.

On the front page of the Hindustan Times, Sanjjeev K Samyal writes the problems go beyond a squad that is listless and out of its depth.

It showed when the selection committee picked replacements for Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh. While it looks it's over for the three, their replacements hardly inspire confidence. Only Parvinder Awana is seen as someone with potential. The addition of Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla doesn't make the team any better or stronger. Jadeja recently made headlines with two triple tons in Ranji Trophy, but he was dropped earlier this year from the one-day team for inconsistent performance. Chawla's showing has been below par even in first-class cricket.

In the blogosphere, Subash Jayaraman puts India's decline down to a lack of discipline.

Although India seem to give a decent account of themselves in the limited overs game, despite playing with almost the same cast of players, this is more starkly revealed in the Test arena, which puts the ability of the players to stay disciplined under the most severe of investigations and pressure.

Kartikeya Date says the big worry is the batsmen's application and the lack of alternatives with the ball.

There is stroke making talent aplenty. The question now, is whether these players have staying power. Whether, like Tendulkar once did famously against Curtly Ambrose in West Indies in 1997, they have the discipline to survive a session - to shelve their strokes and wait if they realize that a bowler is bowling too well. Tendulkar made 12 runs in that session. Imagine. The Tendulkar of 1997. He was 24 years old at the time, the same age as Kohli, Pujara and Rahane are now.

The bowling is a bigger worry. For many years, India could find decent spin bowlers to support Anil Kumble. Before Harbhajan Singh came along as a massively talented off spinner, Venkatpathy Raju, Rajesh Chauhan and a host of other spinners backed Kumble. It remains an open question as to where the next potential Anil Kumble will come from. Over the last 6 years, India have benefited additionally from having Zaheer Khan mature into a world class bowler. That transition came after he was dropped from the side in 2006. Does Zaheer have another phase in him? If he does, I doubt that it will be more than a couple of years. Glenn McGrath retired at 36.

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