Australia in India 2012-13 March 1, 2013

Not the '90s again, please

The Chennai victory also brought home some warnings for India from past experiences
40

On the eve of the Hyderabad Test against Australia, R Ashwin triggered a memory and a premonition. He talked about how MS Dhoni's Chennai innings of 224 had cascaded onto his captaincy. "As a captain you set the tempo, it boils out into your field setting, bowling changes, everything." After Dhoni's double century, the Test, Ashwin believed, "just took off from there, I don't think we were looking back after he played such a knock." Dhoni's innings effectively seized control of the Chennai Test. It has put in to play such a balance of power in the series that only some freakish effort from the Australians can reverse it.

The memory triggered by that innings came from 20 years ago and had at its centre another besieged Indian captain, who scored a century with a pace and fluency that could only be described as both manic and magical. Or, as Ashwin put it, "demoralising" for the fielding side.

The captain from 20 years ago was Mohammed Azharuddin, whose form had vanished circa 1992-1993. He had two fifties from 10 Tests and had just come through two ghastly overseas tours. His team was clobbered by the Australians 0-4 in 1991-92 and a year later, during a historic series in South Africa (1992-93), India lost a four-Test series 0-1. (Still doesn't look as bad as 0-4, 0-4).

Azhar's number, many believed, was up. In the 1993 Calcutta Test against England, Azhar came in to bat at No. 5 with India on 93 for 3. At stumps, he was 114, playing flicks and drives, and whiplashes past point, his bat glinting in the afternoon sun. His eventual score of 182 off 197 balls gave enough runs for India's spin troika to push England towards a follow-on and defeat.

That innings reinstated Azhar's position as captain and prime batsman in the squad. He stayed in charge of the Indian team uninterrupted for another three years and returned to the job between 1998-99 (after Sachin Tendulkar led the team for 18 months) until the end of the 1999 World Cup. Dhoni's double in Chennai has certainly given him more than adequate breathing room both at the top and in the team.

So much for the memory. The premonition following Chennai 2013, which was driven by an all-round craving for victory after being pole-axed by England three months ago, is that the 1990s could return. Their onset could well be marked by the stewardship of Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher this season, much like India's 1990s were marked by the Azhar-Ajit Wadekar partnership.

That decade became famous for India's lopsided performances - victory at home and completely hapless performances overseas. In the entire decade, India won a single Test away from home-in Sri Lanka - and zero outside the subcontinent.

In the 1990s, India played 69 Test matches, won 18 and lost 20. Fifteen of those defeats were away from home. India's home Test record remained outstanding: 17 wins in 30 Tests, five defeats (to West Indies, South Africa, Australia and two to Pakistan) and eight draws. Other than the solitary Asian Test Championship defeat to Pakistan, India didn't lose a series at home in 10 years.

Victories were concocted by a simple method: keep the wickets dry, stack in two other spinners alongside Anil Kumble, and make the opposition melt. India had allrounders in Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar, slightly improved versions of Ravindra Jadeja, bless him.

They were heady days because Kumble was a ferocious hunter and gatherer of wickets and the batsmen Indians watched on television were eminently watchable: Azhar the magician, Sanjay Manjrekar the craftsman-technician, Sachin Tendulkar the prodigy, Navjot Sidhu the spin-meister, Vinod Kambli the maverick, among others.

The triumphs of the twirly-men fast became the 1990s Azhar-Wadekar template even when India's post-Kapil crop of quick bowlers began bursting through. It was this skewed approach which still makes some of those bowlers, like Venkatesh Prasad for example, a bit queasy when they hear that India have gone into a home Test with a 1-3 combination.

During that decade, India plunged in to ODI cricket, matched only by Pakistan with a passion that appeared perennial and an appetite that looked insatiable.

In many meaningless fizzy-drink tournaments, India were towering at home (69 wins, 33 defeats in 112 matches) but timid away (25 wins, 57 defeats) and fifty-fifty (46 wins, 50 defeats) in neutral venues like Sharjah, Singapore and Toronto. It was all so obvious that on one occasion, even the otherwise sedate The Hindu newspaper was tempted to stick a picture of an Indian team celebrating another home victory on its SportStar magazine cover with an acerbic headline, "Local Heroes."

Cricketers of that generation cough politely when asked about what they thought of that pattern of play and the atmosphere it created. Everyone sensed what was going on as team after team returned home whipped on away tours. On the tour of Zimbabwe in 2001, Kumble was asked how many overseas Test wins he had been a part of in his 10-year plus career. His answer: one. In Sri Lanka, and that too eight years ago.

One Test victory over Australia in 2013 doesn't imply that the 1990s are going to return. This is a new India, data-analysed, former-Test-No.1, support-staffed-to-its-eyeballs India, with fast bowlers pouring in from all corners. Except that Mumbai 2012 was borne out of a 1990s mindset (and 18 months of denial) which was upended by Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.

If India were to lapse into a 1990s redux, it will come with a few ominous supplements. This time there is oodles of cash on India's side, the ability to control the message going around about Indian cricket, and a burgeoning cast of pliable messengers on television and in print. Anything to keep the home fires burning. Like ODIs were for the 1990s, the latest flavour of many seasons is, of course, Twenty20.

Yet, and here's the coincidence: at least two of the selectors on the current panel played their first-class cricket in the 1990s. They know exactly what it was like. Over the course of this series and what it indicates to them for the next round of away tours, these selectors can exercise control over Indian cricket's future over and above the wants, needs and short-term goals of the current team. Indian cricket had much to celebrate two decades ago but an overwhelming narrowness of ambition, purpose, and vision wasn't part of it. Gentlemen, not the 1990s again, please.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • venkatesh018 on March 2, 2013, 7:44 GMT

    "This time there is oodles of cash on India's side, the ability to control the message going around about Indian cricket, and a burgeoning cast of pliable messengers on television and in print. Anything to keep the home fires burning"-Only in the columns of Cricinfo once can find such acid truths written fearlessly. Well said, Sharda ! Coming back to the subject of the article, a relapse to the 90s was exactly the thing India should fear considering the preference of Chennai like surfaces for every home Test by our captain and Duncan Fletcher's apparent indifference to it.

  • RohanMarkJay on March 2, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    Good article Sharda Ugra. I was in Australia during the down under Summer of 1991-92. India came packed with terrific players and batsman. Their top six at the time was easily the best in the world at the time, included a certain prodigy named Sachin Tendulkar. However Allan Border's aussies did their homework on that indian team. Myself included expected India to come over to Australia and beat the Aussies. However the batsman immediately struggled with the extra pace and bounce of Ozzie pitches and the Ozzie fielding excellence and raw in your face win at all costs aggression of the Aussie cricketers and Aussie crowds. They didn't return to Australia till 1999. However I was surprised that in the 1990s India with so many great players were awful away from India but unbeatable in India. I remember Mark Taylor's Australians Number one team of Cricket of the 1990s, going over to India and really struggling.

  • tests_the_best on March 2, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    What a well thought-out and timely article, keeping an eye on the long run and not being swayed by some home victories. This is exactly the kind of approach needed if any team wants to succeed in all conditions like SA. Too bad the Indian team think tank doesn't think along these lines in its selections. As has been pointed out, India has 4 overseas tours coming up starting with SA this year end. Has some thought gone into what the team is going to be for those tours? As was recently seen with Pak in SA, just 2 or 3 batsmen making runs is not enough to compete in overseas tours. Who's going to take Laxman's role or the openers' role? Even Zaheer's place (although there seem to be some young new pacers around but unless they are given atleast a few seaming tracks, one can never know who's a long term prospect). It would be most disappointing if Ind wins comfortably against Aus at home and then fails to win a single test in SA, NZ etc.

  • Sir.Ivor on March 2, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    A very valid article from Sharda. One point is in regard to Azhar's woes in Australia in the 91/92 series India lost the first Test.That was the series in which Sachin Tendulkar came into international notice first. He scored 148 in the Sydney Test which also marked the baptism of Shane Warne. But for highly biased umpiring- those days there were no neutral umpires-India would have won that Test. Australia were 8 wickets down or so at that stage. The test was drawn. In the next game at Adelaide, India were chasing a target of over 350 odd. Azhar scored a brilliant century and Prabhakar gave him solid support. India fell short by just about 30 runs.The last test at Perth was the one in which Sachin scored that great 100 that is part of cricketing lore. The point I wish to make is that though the scoreline will read lost 0-4, it could just as easily have been 2-2 but for some highly biased or questionable or incompetent umpiring. I remember the 186 of Azhar as well. It was superb stuff.

  • ajimen on March 2, 2013, 0:51 GMT

    Sharda, well narated article. But, all the other test playing nations are struggling except South Africa. Whatever you say about the short term goals, it is better than long term goals, since we have not achieved anything thinking too much about the future. When we never had any goals we won 83 world cup, when we had good goals with good team we lost badly in world cups. So, it is the right attitude not the setting and spending too much money on setting a future which can change a lot of things over a period of time

  • InsideHedge on March 1, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    Lovely article, Sharda. Don't forget tho, one of the key ingredients for India at home was to play in Chennai in the summer and as early as possible within a series. This is where the opposition truly melted. A victory at Chennai means you're half way to winning the following Test as the opp strives to regain their fluids. It's no coincidence that England played at the beginning of India's winter, the weather was not nearly as hot as it is now for the Aussies. It's the difference between a touring team to England playing in May and playing in the much warmer August.

  • Shan156 on March 1, 2013, 22:37 GMT

    India should continue to make spin friendly pitches. That is what test cricket is all about. Different conditions in different countries. Swing in England, Pace in SA, bounce in Aus, spin in the SC. That is what makes test cricket more exciting. And, it presents a challenge for visiting teams to adapt to the conditions and make their mark. That is why India's win in Eng. in 2007, their draw in Aus. in 2003-2004 and in SA in 2010-2011 are more significant than their wins at home. That is what makes Eng's win in Ind. more significant than their 4-0 mauling of the same opposition in Eng. They could prepare some pitches for domestic games which aid pace.

    With the resources at their disposal, Ind. could continue to challenge teams in their backyard if only they concentrate more on fitness. Lack of fitness is the biggest detriment to Indian cricket. Fitness, more than talent (of which they possess plenty, probably more than any other country). Case in point: Zaheer Khan.

  • mlkt on March 3, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    in 1990s when we played at home, we used to have makeshift openers like mongia, and because we relied too much on spin, there were no permanent pacers except for srinath and prasad.....so whenever we went abroad we used to carry new openers like raman, ramesh etc and also we packed 1-2 new inexperienced fast bowlers into r team......so the point is that at that time we used to go with new combinations and inexprienced faces and lost....but under ganguly and then dhoni....we developed stable openers like sehwag, jaffer, chopra, gambhir and also our pace attack improved with zaheer, nehra, etc cming in...

  • Kapil_Choudhary on March 2, 2013, 16:05 GMT

    Can there ever be a bigger cynic than Sharda Ugra??????? Even after a great Indian victory and one of the best test innings ever, she will somehow find negatives and turn it into the big bad wolf which will devour everything.

  • on March 2, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    Writers like Ms. Ugra are so desperate that India should win abroad that they try to belittle any Indian home win...there is no point in preparing green tops in India in the hope that in 10 yrs time we will win an away series. In the meantime we will lose to everybody at home as well and cricket will go the way of hockey in India.

    Thanks but no thanks!

  • venkatesh018 on March 2, 2013, 7:44 GMT

    "This time there is oodles of cash on India's side, the ability to control the message going around about Indian cricket, and a burgeoning cast of pliable messengers on television and in print. Anything to keep the home fires burning"-Only in the columns of Cricinfo once can find such acid truths written fearlessly. Well said, Sharda ! Coming back to the subject of the article, a relapse to the 90s was exactly the thing India should fear considering the preference of Chennai like surfaces for every home Test by our captain and Duncan Fletcher's apparent indifference to it.

  • RohanMarkJay on March 2, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    Good article Sharda Ugra. I was in Australia during the down under Summer of 1991-92. India came packed with terrific players and batsman. Their top six at the time was easily the best in the world at the time, included a certain prodigy named Sachin Tendulkar. However Allan Border's aussies did their homework on that indian team. Myself included expected India to come over to Australia and beat the Aussies. However the batsman immediately struggled with the extra pace and bounce of Ozzie pitches and the Ozzie fielding excellence and raw in your face win at all costs aggression of the Aussie cricketers and Aussie crowds. They didn't return to Australia till 1999. However I was surprised that in the 1990s India with so many great players were awful away from India but unbeatable in India. I remember Mark Taylor's Australians Number one team of Cricket of the 1990s, going over to India and really struggling.

  • tests_the_best on March 2, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    What a well thought-out and timely article, keeping an eye on the long run and not being swayed by some home victories. This is exactly the kind of approach needed if any team wants to succeed in all conditions like SA. Too bad the Indian team think tank doesn't think along these lines in its selections. As has been pointed out, India has 4 overseas tours coming up starting with SA this year end. Has some thought gone into what the team is going to be for those tours? As was recently seen with Pak in SA, just 2 or 3 batsmen making runs is not enough to compete in overseas tours. Who's going to take Laxman's role or the openers' role? Even Zaheer's place (although there seem to be some young new pacers around but unless they are given atleast a few seaming tracks, one can never know who's a long term prospect). It would be most disappointing if Ind wins comfortably against Aus at home and then fails to win a single test in SA, NZ etc.

  • Sir.Ivor on March 2, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    A very valid article from Sharda. One point is in regard to Azhar's woes in Australia in the 91/92 series India lost the first Test.That was the series in which Sachin Tendulkar came into international notice first. He scored 148 in the Sydney Test which also marked the baptism of Shane Warne. But for highly biased umpiring- those days there were no neutral umpires-India would have won that Test. Australia were 8 wickets down or so at that stage. The test was drawn. In the next game at Adelaide, India were chasing a target of over 350 odd. Azhar scored a brilliant century and Prabhakar gave him solid support. India fell short by just about 30 runs.The last test at Perth was the one in which Sachin scored that great 100 that is part of cricketing lore. The point I wish to make is that though the scoreline will read lost 0-4, it could just as easily have been 2-2 but for some highly biased or questionable or incompetent umpiring. I remember the 186 of Azhar as well. It was superb stuff.

  • ajimen on March 2, 2013, 0:51 GMT

    Sharda, well narated article. But, all the other test playing nations are struggling except South Africa. Whatever you say about the short term goals, it is better than long term goals, since we have not achieved anything thinking too much about the future. When we never had any goals we won 83 world cup, when we had good goals with good team we lost badly in world cups. So, it is the right attitude not the setting and spending too much money on setting a future which can change a lot of things over a period of time

  • InsideHedge on March 1, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    Lovely article, Sharda. Don't forget tho, one of the key ingredients for India at home was to play in Chennai in the summer and as early as possible within a series. This is where the opposition truly melted. A victory at Chennai means you're half way to winning the following Test as the opp strives to regain their fluids. It's no coincidence that England played at the beginning of India's winter, the weather was not nearly as hot as it is now for the Aussies. It's the difference between a touring team to England playing in May and playing in the much warmer August.

  • Shan156 on March 1, 2013, 22:37 GMT

    India should continue to make spin friendly pitches. That is what test cricket is all about. Different conditions in different countries. Swing in England, Pace in SA, bounce in Aus, spin in the SC. That is what makes test cricket more exciting. And, it presents a challenge for visiting teams to adapt to the conditions and make their mark. That is why India's win in Eng. in 2007, their draw in Aus. in 2003-2004 and in SA in 2010-2011 are more significant than their wins at home. That is what makes Eng's win in Ind. more significant than their 4-0 mauling of the same opposition in Eng. They could prepare some pitches for domestic games which aid pace.

    With the resources at their disposal, Ind. could continue to challenge teams in their backyard if only they concentrate more on fitness. Lack of fitness is the biggest detriment to Indian cricket. Fitness, more than talent (of which they possess plenty, probably more than any other country). Case in point: Zaheer Khan.

  • mlkt on March 3, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    in 1990s when we played at home, we used to have makeshift openers like mongia, and because we relied too much on spin, there were no permanent pacers except for srinath and prasad.....so whenever we went abroad we used to carry new openers like raman, ramesh etc and also we packed 1-2 new inexperienced fast bowlers into r team......so the point is that at that time we used to go with new combinations and inexprienced faces and lost....but under ganguly and then dhoni....we developed stable openers like sehwag, jaffer, chopra, gambhir and also our pace attack improved with zaheer, nehra, etc cming in...

  • Kapil_Choudhary on March 2, 2013, 16:05 GMT

    Can there ever be a bigger cynic than Sharda Ugra??????? Even after a great Indian victory and one of the best test innings ever, she will somehow find negatives and turn it into the big bad wolf which will devour everything.

  • on March 2, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    Writers like Ms. Ugra are so desperate that India should win abroad that they try to belittle any Indian home win...there is no point in preparing green tops in India in the hope that in 10 yrs time we will win an away series. In the meantime we will lose to everybody at home as well and cricket will go the way of hockey in India.

    Thanks but no thanks!

  • isot on March 2, 2013, 10:23 GMT

    An article where the point to be made is decided and instances chosen to support the same. " Azhar the magician, Sanjay Manjrekar the craftsman-technician, Sachin Tendulkar the prodigy, Navjot Sidhu the spin-meister, Vinod Kambli the maverick, among others". Kambli the maverick! Please gimme a break. I think Sehwag, Dhoni, Kohli are much much better than those guys. And very pessimistic way to look at things. Let things unfold and then we can talk.

  • salil247 on March 2, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    According to Ms Ugra, Dhoni will never be one of the greatest cricket players of all time, which, incidentally, he IS. Says she, "The memory triggered by that innings... its centre another besieged Indian captain". India won the 2011 ODI world cup, Ms Ugra goes something like, " He walked in a beleaguered man and came out a hero", or some such. Another from her: "Can India afford a captain who isn't committed to Test cricket?". Quotes from people who matter follow: "He [Dhoni] is the best captain I have played under," Tendulkar. "Dhoni is the greatest captain of our country. His record is proof of that. Under Dhoni, India have won the Twenty20 World Cup and the Asia Cup. Under him, India have become the No.1 ranked side in Test cricket. And now, we have won the WorldCup.Obviously, he is the greatest ever captain to lead India." Ganguly. "India are lucky to have Dhoni." "It will be a close series, but thanks to Dhoni, India do have a significant advantage." Gregie. I'd go on.. no time!

  • santoshjohnsamuel on March 2, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    Very well written and argued, as always. Would like to state upfront that i'm a lover of Test cricket and would love to see a strong Indian Test side, capable of putting up a fight (if not win) in England, Australia and South Africa. Having said that, i remain deeply pessimistic and cynical about India's Test future for the simple reason that we do not have a stock of pace bowlers (an essential). At best, we can only hope that Kohli (possibly), Pujara (possibly), Rahane (possibly), Rohit Sharma (possibly) and Raina (possibly) stand up and be counted as batsmen who'll fight it out on our overseas tours. Led by the Dhoni, this team could develop a bit of pluck, but that's a big could.

  • Harmony111 on March 2, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    Horrible article. Foolishly some ppl think that one should let go of one's strengths while one tries to get bet better in things one is bad at. Only a total idiot would weaken his strengths in order to strengthen his weaknesses. This is basic sense, this is instinctive, this is logical, this is totally fair. But some ppl keep preaching how it is bad to have spinning wickets. What is worse is that she is saying this at a time when the 90s are actually not being repeated (thought nothing would be wrong if its was so). The wickets vs Eng and here vs Aus are by no means any dustbowls. Chennai wicket was one kind of an IDEAL Wicket. It had runs - quick & huge runs, it had spin all 5 days, it was easy to bat provided you were up to it, it had ample bounce too provided you knew how to get it and were ready to work hard. Did we not see Patto's bouncer to Vijay on Day 5? Criticism of Chennai Test is whining.

    90s are NOT here yet Ugra is telling us so. Confused?

  • on March 2, 2013, 7:31 GMT

    It is a great to call Kapil as slightly improved version of Ravindra Jadeja. As for 1991-92 India Vs Aus series, though India were beaten in 4 tests, in realty India played much better than that. Some biased umpiring by home umpired robbed India in Sydney and Adelaid which we should have won if there were neutral umpires or third umpires.

  • Ritesh_Bhagwat on March 2, 2013, 7:09 GMT

    I have been following Sharda for quite a while now...She is always precise , articulate, biased and pessimist. In short a journalist :-)

  • on March 2, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    While a lopsided record is not what India should look for, we also have to remember that after Kapil there was Srinath, and then Zaheer Khan. There was a decent support cast in Sreesanth, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan in his peak. Now Zaheer is almost done, Sreesanth, RP and Irfan aren't anywhere close to their best, Praveen Kumar is going through all kinds of problems. Ishant Sharma is not really a wicket taking bowler who can win you test matches. Bhuvneshwar Kumar could be handful with the new ball in helpful conditions, and Umesh Yadav is quality. But unless India have some quality fast bowlers, always going for the spin option is better, at least we can win at home. And in comparison with the number of flat roads India put up in the previous decade, a Chennai like pitch makes for far better cricket.

  • Subu on March 2, 2013, 6:16 GMT

    Is there any cricketing country in the world that provides pitches that doesn't suit their skills ? With the cricketing being dominant in England/ Australia and WI, the fast pitches were the norm around the world and once the sub continent team became a world beating force, questions are raised. This is Test match meant to" test" the batsman/bowler's skill and a professional is a professional. What stops Aus to prepare themselves in the so-called dust bowls ? I don't see a reason other than lack of skills/temperament and the so called Aussie superior ego ? Let's not take the credit away from England as they applied and out-thought India. Aus can still turnaround. I have great pride abt our team but definitely acknowledge if the other team is better.

  • on March 2, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    It is foolish to call Kapil and Manoj "slightly improved versions of Ravindra Jadeja" . Kapil is a LEGEND of the game. And Prabhakar though no legend was anyday a much more valuable cricketer than warnie's "rockstar" jadeja.

  • on March 2, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    On what criteria does Ugra calls fizzy-drink ODI tournaments meaningless ? If those are meaningless then border Gavaskar trophy is also meaningless & so is Ashes. No international tournament is meaningless. Sharjah, Sahara, Asia, World cup ICC knockout are all as imp tournaments as any other test match series..... Plz. Ugra if you like test matches, that is your personal preference but that doesn't mean ODI is unimp. ODIis equally important because WC is played in that format & it decides which is the best team. Ask Eng & SA who have never been world champions. AUS, WI & IND have been great teams because they won ODI WC. Besides what harm in being local heros. If Ind have been chickens outside that is because India never had great pace bowlers who could take full adv of foreign supporting pitches. Ugra your bias towards a particular form of game & particular players like Dravid is too obvious which does not suit a cricket journalist.

  • RoJayao on March 2, 2013, 4:03 GMT

    Has India ever been any different? Were pitches suddenly prepared fairly in the noughties and especially when they were no.1? No. Extreme home pitches have always been the norm. It's not the way the rest of the world thinks, except maybe Sri Lanka, but hey that's India. As an Aussie fan there is just no point complaining now, we knew this was going to happen. The silly thing is that if India had prepared much more balanced pitches, pitches that started with something for fast men, played true for batsmen days 2 and 3 and THEN spun sharply the last 2 days, there might have actually been competitive cricket and given the weakness of the Australian batting, India with home support may well have still been winning! Aren't wins from a genuine contest much more satisfying than wins manufactured under dubious circumstances? Whilst I'm sure the fans of Indian cricket enjoy flogging foreign teams at home, don't they also want to be no.1 again? That won't happen again with current attitudes.

  • Al_Bundy1 on March 2, 2013, 4:01 GMT

    Good observartions by Sharda. Being Local Heroes is not enough for a country of 1 billion people and the richest cricket board in the world. With all the resources at our disposal we should be no. 1 in every version of this game. If we are not, it's because of mismanagement and nepotism.

  • bharat247 on March 2, 2013, 3:54 GMT

    @DipsoManiac - completely agree with you. I would go one step further and echo BTyagi and say drop Dhoni as the captain faster than ASAP. He is bad news as a strategist and is way too defensive. If he thinks his bowlers cannot get him the wickets of tailenders then he should ask for better bowlers and if he thinks there are no better bowlers then he should resign and let someone else who thinks he can make better strategies be the captain. This defensive mindset may work in India (that too only some of the times as England showed!) but it will NOT work overseas.

  • on March 2, 2013, 3:54 GMT

    Mr. Sharda Ugra i think you are being pessimistic. Hope is good..So lets hope for the best.. Remember India's 2001 Kolkatta test match victory.. It changed the perception and belief of our team. And we won matches abroad with the great captain Ganguly.. Its always good to be positive..

  • on March 2, 2013, 3:37 GMT

    Why is everyone surprised that "without spin India cant win"? Ofc they cannot, because that is the strength of Indian Cricket for god's sake!!! Can you ask Aussies, England or SA to play without their pacers at their respective homes? No because that is their strength! And as people are saying, you cannot "just make bouncy pitches" because it is not what the geographical and environmental conditions permit! It is dry hot in India most of the year (yes there is winter which gets chilly, but still its pretty dry). Overseas, like in England or NZ or even Aus, they can only prepare pitches that support mostly pace since there is ample rain and you cant make the land go dry in 3 months of summer they get! They prepare pitches that match their strength and we ours!

  • rajpan on March 2, 2013, 3:14 GMT

    This is a valid point. Overdoing this will end up in India degenerating itself to Bangladesh status (India was never too far from it anyway). But at least one has to be strong enough in their own backyard before they can dream of doing better in foreign conditions. More frequent visits of 'A' teams to England/Australia/SAF could be one option to set the situation right. Compared to nineties, one more spoiling factor today is the 20-20 version. The classic version is threatened with extinction for sure.

  • shenoyragh on March 2, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    I would say get the 1990s for the matches played in India.. And get the 2000s for the matches played abroad..

  • TyrantInShorts on March 2, 2013, 1:36 GMT

    Sharda has raised a very valid concern, and definitely uppermost in all the discerning Indian fans' minds is the 8-0 losses abroad, these will not be easily forgotten. The analysis is very good, Sharda has looked at a number of signs that Indian cricket has "turtled" to use a gaming term, which is turned inwards in a self-protective move, rather than going on the attack abroad, something that Saurav, Rahul or even Anil would have done as captain. There is however the other possibility that these are signals of a team in rebuilding mode, and it will come out stronger on the other side with the help of Duncan Fletcher and all the support staff. Dhoni is captain because of support from BCCI Srinivasan, who doesn't give a damn about India as long as Chennai is taken care of. I don't think Dhoni will survive beyond the South Africa series, barring a miracle.

  • on March 2, 2013, 1:04 GMT

    The team has now got excellent batsmen for the 3, 4, 5 and 6 slots in Pujara, Sachin Kohli and Dhoni. Once Sehwag clicks (as I am sure he will), the Indian team will become a great batting side, with a Jadeja at no,7. We are waiting for the return of Zaheer and Umesh to get a good seam attack.

    Hope India will be back to number 1 by 2014

  • on March 2, 2013, 0:31 GMT

    If only we have more writers like Sharda.. It is just very disappointing to see even the recently retired heroes like Dravid, Laxman toeing the BCCI line and saying the politically correct things all the time. I guess the blueprint for survival post-retirement for the cricketers has been very clearly made out by Gavaskar and Shastri and all these guys are doing is just following that.

  • xylo on March 2, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    How conveniently written to dump the blame on Dhoni and Fletcher. In my opinion, that is so typical of this author. For the past 5 years, it was very clear that post-Dravid, Laxman and Sachin, India will struggle in series away from home. Did this author care to write about the glaring warning and write about blooding youngsters by rotating one of the seniors. Did this author make the case for a Badrinath, or a Rahane? Even now, does this author have the guts to question the place of Sachin/Sehwag instead of Rahane/Dhawan to get experience while the seniors are around? But Dhoni is at fault? By all means!!

  • cricket__fan on March 1, 2013, 23:20 GMT

    Can we please have quality writing on cricinfo? The writer seems to have lost the plot as to what she wants to convey. We all know that one hot day does not make a summer and any comparison with past is always misleading since there was no IPL in those days. Indian cricket team is extremely weak in all aspects of test cricket and nothing is going to change on this front.

  • big_al_81 on March 1, 2013, 22:34 GMT

    Great stuff. Enthralling to read and a compelling argument even if, in the comments below, there are a few details being questioned. The thesis overall is fascinating. If India are sinking back into that pattern, there are two problems - England, as we saw before Christmas, and Pakistan, whenever they next come calling. Both have better spinners than India. Swann, Panesar, Ajmal and one of the others. Whether Pakistan's batsmen can back up in the way England's did is more questionable. But I'd back Pakistan's bowlers over India's every time, even their rather second-rate seamers are better than India's third-rate ones (until Yadav returns and gets more experience - he's the only one who looks quite good)

  • DipsoManiac on March 1, 2013, 21:25 GMT

    You have echoed my fears.Suddenly, Dhoni is the hero again, the best captain ever and man with vision and right attitude.However,for any Indian cricket fan who has seen enough test cricket while growing up in 90s, the next year might take you back to the dark corners of your mind where you had locked the painful memories of away losses and which had stayed locked because of the tremendous efforts of test team of the noughties.The Chinnai win has in no way solved any of the problems we were discussing couple of weeks ago: Openers who can play outside sub-continent,the medium pacers who can swing and bowl a consistent line and length at a decent speed and of course,a captain who values test cricket (i.e. doesn't compare 6 months of bad cricket to couple of hours of brain freeze at World Cup) and has a plan and tactics other than going on defensive at the slightest hint of aggression by the opposition, especially by the lower-middle order/tail.Wishing you strength,my fellow cricket fans!

  • BTyagi on March 1, 2013, 21:18 GMT

    Very well written Sharda...i know there are many, like NairUSA, who would have any number of reasons to justify winning at home but i dont think this should be the vision of administrators and captain. I'm not saying dont win at home..win at home but not in the tailor made conditions...purpose of any sport team should be to achieve excellence...in any condition..in any situation. When you subvert this endeavor you are encouraging mediocrity. Ask the West Indies of 70s and 80s and Australinas of 90 and 2000s... pitch condition will be the last thing on their mind to win....simply...they were too good for anyone.

    Though dhoni has hit a double, i think he should be replaced as Test captain asap...no doubt he is best WK/Batsman India has produced....play him as WK/batsmen..but not Test Captain for heavens sake.

  • armchairjohnny on March 1, 2013, 21:09 GMT

    Not entirely true. This is quite a reductionist viewpoint of Indian cricket in the 90s. India was far from being a financial power in the game (the financial revenue was really being generated in the very late part of the 90's, but mostly in the early 00's).

    As for the cricket, I remember how green the wicket used to be in Calcutta in the 90s, often favoring the seam bowlers. Mumbai and Kanpur would often see some scoring games where the ball spun and even swung. And let's not forget that India's bowling attack back then was far superior to the dire rubbish they currently have at their disposal. Those home victories occurred not due to batsmen, but because of the bowlers being able to get 20 wickets, and Srinath was absolutely critical to India's home success. (How they could do with him now!). The batting was actually of a higher caliber than today's Indian team (PK Amre would average 50+ today), but this was negated by higher bowling standard in international cricket back then.

  • GreenDeviln on March 1, 2013, 21:02 GMT

    Indian players have always been local heroes. But these days they have not been up to mark even to tag themselves as local heroes(recent home series loss to England). If India wants to change this ever there is only way, to prepare pacy, bouncy and swinging pitches(like the one in Dharamshala or Mohali) for Ranji games.

  • Sauravjha on March 1, 2013, 21:00 GMT

    Completely understand the concerns of Sharda here and i guess same are the concerns of many Indian fans too that in quest of some victories they don't go back to their desperate strategies and planning of 90's again. But just looking from outside in every PC Dhoni has attended and way he has mentioned "overseas tour" atleast once clearly suggests that they have not ignored overseas factor even when they are in a need of some wins after home loss against English side.

    Its just that they need to have some wins now in kitty just to feel good and get some breathing space as a team because media would create havoc here if there is another home series loss. Hence balance needs to be made out here between important homes wins and even more important overseas tours too.

  • VickGower on March 1, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    "This is a new India, data-analysed, former-Test-No.1, support-staffed-to-its-eyeballs India, with fast bowlers pouring in from all corners."

    Fast bowlers pouring in from all corners? Really? Is New India in India?

  • NairUSA on March 1, 2013, 20:33 GMT

    Good observartions by Shards. However, wins at home are very much necessary to shore up the confidence to win abroad. If these wins come with the help of spin friendly pitches, let it be so. Who says that India should win only win medium pacers? Our strength has always been spin and solid sensible batting in India. This formula may not always work in foreign soil though.

    So, how do we improve our not-so-great performance outside India? India has to spend dollars to send their medium pacers and batsmen to train or play for a longer period in Australia, England and South Africa with future tours in mind.

  • NairUSA on March 1, 2013, 20:33 GMT

    Good observartions by Shards. However, wins at home are very much necessary to shore up the confidence to win abroad. If these wins come with the help of spin friendly pitches, let it be so. Who says that India should win only win medium pacers? Our strength has always been spin and solid sensible batting in India. This formula may not always work in foreign soil though.

    So, how do we improve our not-so-great performance outside India? India has to spend dollars to send their medium pacers and batsmen to train or play for a longer period in Australia, England and South Africa with future tours in mind.

  • VickGower on March 1, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    "This is a new India, data-analysed, former-Test-No.1, support-staffed-to-its-eyeballs India, with fast bowlers pouring in from all corners."

    Fast bowlers pouring in from all corners? Really? Is New India in India?

  • Sauravjha on March 1, 2013, 21:00 GMT

    Completely understand the concerns of Sharda here and i guess same are the concerns of many Indian fans too that in quest of some victories they don't go back to their desperate strategies and planning of 90's again. But just looking from outside in every PC Dhoni has attended and way he has mentioned "overseas tour" atleast once clearly suggests that they have not ignored overseas factor even when they are in a need of some wins after home loss against English side.

    Its just that they need to have some wins now in kitty just to feel good and get some breathing space as a team because media would create havoc here if there is another home series loss. Hence balance needs to be made out here between important homes wins and even more important overseas tours too.

  • GreenDeviln on March 1, 2013, 21:02 GMT

    Indian players have always been local heroes. But these days they have not been up to mark even to tag themselves as local heroes(recent home series loss to England). If India wants to change this ever there is only way, to prepare pacy, bouncy and swinging pitches(like the one in Dharamshala or Mohali) for Ranji games.

  • armchairjohnny on March 1, 2013, 21:09 GMT

    Not entirely true. This is quite a reductionist viewpoint of Indian cricket in the 90s. India was far from being a financial power in the game (the financial revenue was really being generated in the very late part of the 90's, but mostly in the early 00's).

    As for the cricket, I remember how green the wicket used to be in Calcutta in the 90s, often favoring the seam bowlers. Mumbai and Kanpur would often see some scoring games where the ball spun and even swung. And let's not forget that India's bowling attack back then was far superior to the dire rubbish they currently have at their disposal. Those home victories occurred not due to batsmen, but because of the bowlers being able to get 20 wickets, and Srinath was absolutely critical to India's home success. (How they could do with him now!). The batting was actually of a higher caliber than today's Indian team (PK Amre would average 50+ today), but this was negated by higher bowling standard in international cricket back then.

  • BTyagi on March 1, 2013, 21:18 GMT

    Very well written Sharda...i know there are many, like NairUSA, who would have any number of reasons to justify winning at home but i dont think this should be the vision of administrators and captain. I'm not saying dont win at home..win at home but not in the tailor made conditions...purpose of any sport team should be to achieve excellence...in any condition..in any situation. When you subvert this endeavor you are encouraging mediocrity. Ask the West Indies of 70s and 80s and Australinas of 90 and 2000s... pitch condition will be the last thing on their mind to win....simply...they were too good for anyone.

    Though dhoni has hit a double, i think he should be replaced as Test captain asap...no doubt he is best WK/Batsman India has produced....play him as WK/batsmen..but not Test Captain for heavens sake.

  • DipsoManiac on March 1, 2013, 21:25 GMT

    You have echoed my fears.Suddenly, Dhoni is the hero again, the best captain ever and man with vision and right attitude.However,for any Indian cricket fan who has seen enough test cricket while growing up in 90s, the next year might take you back to the dark corners of your mind where you had locked the painful memories of away losses and which had stayed locked because of the tremendous efforts of test team of the noughties.The Chinnai win has in no way solved any of the problems we were discussing couple of weeks ago: Openers who can play outside sub-continent,the medium pacers who can swing and bowl a consistent line and length at a decent speed and of course,a captain who values test cricket (i.e. doesn't compare 6 months of bad cricket to couple of hours of brain freeze at World Cup) and has a plan and tactics other than going on defensive at the slightest hint of aggression by the opposition, especially by the lower-middle order/tail.Wishing you strength,my fellow cricket fans!

  • big_al_81 on March 1, 2013, 22:34 GMT

    Great stuff. Enthralling to read and a compelling argument even if, in the comments below, there are a few details being questioned. The thesis overall is fascinating. If India are sinking back into that pattern, there are two problems - England, as we saw before Christmas, and Pakistan, whenever they next come calling. Both have better spinners than India. Swann, Panesar, Ajmal and one of the others. Whether Pakistan's batsmen can back up in the way England's did is more questionable. But I'd back Pakistan's bowlers over India's every time, even their rather second-rate seamers are better than India's third-rate ones (until Yadav returns and gets more experience - he's the only one who looks quite good)

  • cricket__fan on March 1, 2013, 23:20 GMT

    Can we please have quality writing on cricinfo? The writer seems to have lost the plot as to what she wants to convey. We all know that one hot day does not make a summer and any comparison with past is always misleading since there was no IPL in those days. Indian cricket team is extremely weak in all aspects of test cricket and nothing is going to change on this front.

  • xylo on March 2, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    How conveniently written to dump the blame on Dhoni and Fletcher. In my opinion, that is so typical of this author. For the past 5 years, it was very clear that post-Dravid, Laxman and Sachin, India will struggle in series away from home. Did this author care to write about the glaring warning and write about blooding youngsters by rotating one of the seniors. Did this author make the case for a Badrinath, or a Rahane? Even now, does this author have the guts to question the place of Sachin/Sehwag instead of Rahane/Dhawan to get experience while the seniors are around? But Dhoni is at fault? By all means!!