If India want to win overseas, they need to not care too much about winning at home
India have missed one of their greatest opportunities to win an overseas series. England are not a strong side, even at home. A number of their batsmen average in the 30s at first-class level. On pure current form, their team has two world-class bowlers in James Anderson and Stuart Broad and not much else.
India should have done a lot better.
We knew this was going to be an unusual tour in that India's strength was going to be their bowling. There were clear signs that M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara weren't the players they were four years back.
But that they would fail so badly collectively has surprised me. I thought they still had enough ability with the bat to chase targets of 194 at Edgbaston and 245 in Southampton. Two opportunities missed, two Tests lost.
So what is ailing India's batting? Obviously it's about adapting. They bat pretty well at home, don't they?
On India's previous leg of overseas tours, Vijay showed that he could adapt: he admirably restrained his favourite shot, the cover drive, which he used to play taking a small stride forward. That was a hazardous thing to do in seaming conditions, and so he began to leave alone a lot of balls that he would have driven in India.
Three years later he wasn't leaving as much. Also, the line got closer to him, and his inability to get right on top of the ball made him vulnerable as the series went on. He could not make this new adjustment quickly enough. When he was out in his last innings of the tour, he looked like a man who had no fight left. Time to look beyond him now, I guess.
With a hundred in Australia, you would think he had the game to get runs overseas. He seemed to have the technique to get runs everywhere in the world. He didn't have any obvious technical flaws, like, say, a Shikhar Dhawan has. It's still a mystery to me what went wrong with him.
Rahul's defence against both balls coming in and leaving him became paper-thin as the England series wore on - until that fine hundred in the last innings, which like two others among his five hundreds, came in a dead rubber. I wish it had come earlier in the series for India.
Dhawan has excellent temperament. He does not let failures affect him as much as they do others, always wears a smile no matter what, and gives his best every time. His enemy is his technique. There are too many flaws in his game that are exposed when the ball does something. India must move on from him too, and find someone else who can possibly do better overseas. Dhawan has been given plenty of opportunities abroad to prove his worth.
Pujara got a hundred and a 70 in the series but his overall overseas record is still not impressive. An average of 29.30 abroad from your No. 3 does not help the team. India could still back him but they must keep looking for more exciting options.
Rahane has issues of both temperament and technique to tackle at the moment. His uncertain mind gets him to reach for the ball with just his bat, making him vulnerable at the start of his innings. I thought that after that 81 at Trent Bridge, he might have found his batting mojo, but the innings that followed showed that the virus in his batting software is still there.
Rahane should be another player, like Pujara, that India continue with, while closely monitoring his progress and creating a second line of batsmen, just in case.
Here's what's really important: if India really care about winning overseas, they must not care about winning at home as much. Because if you are desperate to win at home, you pick players ideal for home conditions, like Dhawan, who will then let you down on the next overseas tour. Instead, pick a batsman who might not be as effective as Dhawan in home conditions but will be better overseas. This goes for all players - batsmen and bowlers.
India's selectors must pick batsmen in home series who have the potential to get runs overseas (using the perception that I have mentioned). Such batsmen will get an adequate amount of runs in home series anyway, being home-grown talent, but their better techniques and discipline give you hope that they will do well overseas. As an example, if Prithvi Shaw is getting more runs than, say, a Shubman Gill, but if Gill has the game more likely to work overseas, he should be the man India should select.
Essentially, use home games to build a team for overseas. India are still good enough to win at home if they do this, and even if they don't, but end up winning overseas, Indian fans will be more proud of the team, that's for sure.
There is a reason why we have former cricketers as selectors. If it was about picking players based on pure performances, a computer could do the job - pick the highest run-getter and highest wicket-taker in first-class cricket as replacements for those who aren't succeeding at Test level.
I remember before the 1996 tour of England, Vikram Rathour was scoring a lot of runs for Punjab as opener, and so he became a contender for a place on the tour.
Some of us Mumbai players saw him get those runs on Indian pitches from slips and we thought: "Oh boy, this guy will struggle in England." This was because of his technique outside off. Rathour was a great team man with a sound temperament, but his problem was his defensive technique.
It's not that difficult if you have the eye to pick players who can be potential successes overseas. Some players may surprise you with their eventual successes and failures when you do this. For instance, who would have thought that Virender Sehwag would become such a great success as a Test opener, with hundreds all over the world? So this can happen, yes, but it's more an exception to the rule. A trained eye will get it right eight times out of ten.
For Indian cricket's sake, let's hope MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, has that kind of eye, and is given the freedom to do his job. Then we will see how, more than a coach or a captain, it's the chairman of selectors who really has the power to change the destiny of a nation's cricket.