January 17, 2012

India must keep the hurt alive

All too conveniently, humiliations overseas are allowed to fade. The BCCI needs to make sure that doesn't happen this time

So N Srinivasan has denied he boasted about India's ODI series win at home being some sort of revenge for the Test whitewash in England. Which is good to hear. It might, after all, be a sign that the reaction this time might not be similar to that after India's last whitewash, in England. At the BCCI awards function late last year, when some of the senior players were in Australia to prepare for the tour, the debacle in England wasn't even mentioned. The general refrain was: "We won the World Cup, we beat West Indies at home, what a great year." It was like the series in England had never happened.

India must not move on from Australia so easily. The BCCI must not move on so easily. It should not be as simple as this: former players criticise, editors write editorials, an effigy or three is burnt, the IPL comes along, a home series is won, and everything is forgotten.

The BCCI needs to look into why India lost so badly. Were they old, tired, unmotivated, not good enough? Or has the team become soft with the rise of new opportunities outside Test cricket? The board needs to look at the coach's role, and the captain's.

India got their No. 1 ranking because they didn't forget defeats away from home in the '90s. Those rankled for months. India earned respect in the Test world because they started winning away from home. It took a decade's hard work from Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, and other players who played smaller walk-on parts.

They did well precisely because they didn't go about telling other players - like Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma are known to have done - that they will see about averages when they are playing at home. And they did do well - let's not write that off, as has been the temptation after these two poor series in England and Australia. At one point during their reign as No. 1, India had won their last series in England, New Zealand and the West Indies, and drawn their last ones in South Africa and Sri Lanka. The No. 1 ranking was definitely deserved - if not in the way dominating teams do, in a fighting, better-than-the-rest-at-the-time way. It was a lifetime's work, accumulated painstakingly and against the odds.

Now that those players will be gone soon - and most of them have disappointed in their last two series (themselves more than anybody else) - their good work is going to be eroded. The biggest worry, however, for Indian cricket is to make sure these away defeats matter enough to the new India.

They obviously hurt, but how much and for how long? To deduce that lack of interest is the general attitude would be to read too much into a quick retort to a sledge, but if you add to it the BCCI's blasé ways last year, it becomes a disturbing trend. When India were losing in Sydney, the BCCI was busy sending out the schedule for the IPL.

Back in the day, when you lost overseas, you spent months hurting, waiting for your next chance. Today an away defeat seamlessly merges into a home series, which seamlessly merges into the IPL. It is possible for these defeats, then, to not matter that much. This is not to claim they don't - the new generation should be innocent until proven guilty - but in theory does it seem really important for a young India cricketer now to win Tests abroad? The board, the leaders of the game, has to make sure it is.

Home Test wins are not to be scoffed at. Playing spin and reverse swing ought to be as big a test of a batsman's skills as playing pace, bounce, normal swing and seam. Australia, though, didn't win in India by thinking they would see how well India did in Australia. South Africa don't do well in India by thinking they will prepare green tracks for when India visit.

India haven't lost a home series since Australia conquered the "final frontier" in 2004-05. Since April 2005 only South Africa have been able to beat them in Tests at home. It is a proud record, but it doesn't make up for the last seven defeats away. For two years now, India won't be able to make up for it either. They play at home until December 2013. The leadership of the team has to make sure they are hurting from these defeats by the time they start that journey.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • krish on January 20, 2012, 16:00 GMT

    I can't believe the BCCI is not only in a state of denial that we are being thrashed, but on the contrary saying that this is bad luck!!! I am of the view that Laxman needs to go and that Dravid should hang his boots with the same grace that he does most things on and off the field - but Srinivasan, Srikkanth and all our honorary members of the boards need to be sacked too.

  • P Subramani on January 20, 2012, 10:35 GMT

    India have had some of the finest backfoot players in the past. That was because of them having played on matting wickets those days when turf wickets were very few. As a result, batsman earned their wings playing on matting most of the time. They had a lot of bounce. So we had the Merchants,the Mushtaq Alis, the Hazares the Mankads and the Manjrekars, not to mention theGavaskars the Bordes the Durranis and the Hanumants. It might be considered blasphemous to even suggest now that we should play all the domestic league matches on matting wickets considering how much money the BCCI has. But considering how lethargic the BCCI has been in regard to creating bouncy turf wickets, I feel till that happens, matting wickets should be the norm By judiciously using matting wickets, India could create a generation of good back foot players who also have an excellent defensive technique. That is how it used to those days. India produced greats who went largely unsung.

  • Dave on January 19, 2012, 15:14 GMT

    `Team India` ? - what is this, if not a rip-off of the arrogance personified of a US basketball team? No Australian cricket team would have dared perform as abjectly as this team has in losing 4-0 to England, and 3-0 (and counting) to Australia. A loss is acceptable - consistent meek capitulation inexcusable. As for the `wait till you play us in India` barbs - they should be embarrassed to show their faces at home.

    Forgive the schadenfreude, but the (shortlived) `we are No.1` tirades took a toll.

  • Vikram on January 19, 2012, 3:00 GMT

    india is bad ,may be worse which is making aus look TOO good at the moment.

  • Dummy4 on January 19, 2012, 1:46 GMT

    What about this? Consider test cricket as a separate sport altogether. Those who play t20 and odi should not play test cricket. What about board of cricket control for test cricket.

  • Azwar on January 19, 2012, 0:31 GMT

    Having been a fan of Cricket all my life, i don't mind guys making money but my sincere feeling now is that our players are too much into money and this ILP is hurting and it is the truth. These guys are not worried about being out of the money trail as they still hold a far too much hold in our brains we should be able to judge all fairly and if they are not upto it then move on and lets find fresh blood. The whole body lauguage of the players is shamefull to say the least, they are not bothered the way Fans are BCCI is just become a Money making Company and if we can dare to read impartial writers you will see what they really think about BCCI.

  • Dummy4 on January 18, 2012, 22:25 GMT

    There is only ONE way to keep the hurt alive - performance based remuneration. Given that all the players in professional era understand the language of money, if you win abroad - you get greater financial incentive, if you lose .. less financial incentive. Equate the base salary, so no player feels more important than others, and incentives to the ones who perform. Have the away going matches on a higher incentive scale. Run it like a corporate house, generate some accountability, and results would come. I know it's a fantastical concept, but money talks. Just like Sehwag should've got an extra incentive for 219 in a home ODI, he must lose some money for consistently failing in tests against AUS. Similarly Ishant should've gained more than others for being man of the series in WI, and lost enough for his current series. When they know they are set to earn enough from adverts and tours, plus the IPL, why would they care?

  • kan on January 18, 2012, 22:11 GMT

    until there is more incentive to play Test cricket than ODis, T20s , IPLs, it is difficult to see India doing well in Test cricket, we won't see youngstars eager to play test cricket, they can make their life out of T20 and stupid IPL, BCCI have to pay bigger salary to Test cricketers than ODI salary or IPL salary package

  • kan on January 18, 2012, 22:07 GMT

    long debate of who is India's best captain ever - Dhoni or Sourav, everyone seemed to accept including me that it is Dhoni after he lifted the worldcup, but after 7 consecutive embassing humiliating overseas test defeat, Dhoni doesn't deserve the tag of best Indian captain ever, so the honour goes back to Sourav.

  • kan on January 18, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    i had huge huge anticipation when Ind-Eng series started in Eng, India disappointed very badly, but atleast there was some sort of excuse, lot of injury concerns and all, but this time in Australia there was no such excuse, so again i had high expectation from India, only to see India getting humiliated, embarassing defaeted, such a shame!!! and BCCI don't care, they are busy scheduling stupid IPL!!

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