Gary Kirsten, India's coach, has come down hard on some of the Indian players' "fitness and commitment" after his side failed to win a single game in the Super Eights of the World Twenty20, a repeat performance from last year.
Before addressing the team and handing them a dressing-down in the West Indies, Kirsten had a one-on-one interaction with senior players - MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. Team sources said that Kirsten told the group he was angry to see that even he - a 42-year-old - was fitter than some of the players. Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma got special mention with regards to fitness, the sources said. Kirsten demanded better fitness from the players and gave them one month to show results on that front.
Kirsten also said in the meeting that the players seemed content with the No. 1 ranking in Tests and the No. 2 in ODIs, and were not committed to the team cause in the World Twenty20. It is worth noting that only four of the 15 players present there are sure starters in Test matches: Dhoni, Gambhir, Harbhajan and Zaheer.
While it is not the first time that a coach has lashed out at a team, the timing and the harshness of this dressing-down suggest the severity of the problem, especially coming from a man usually content with the back seat. India's early exit from the World Twenty20, their third such effort in last three global events, has drawn harsh criticism from various quarters, but this coming from the coach is the most damning of all. After last year's debacle too, Kirsten had raised similar fitness and intensity questions. He had blamed IPL fatigue then.
His plea bore little result this year. After a six-week-long IPL, India got a five-day break before their first match in the world Twenty20. Yuvraj, coming back from a wrist injury, played all 14 of Kings XI Punjab's matches. Zaheer sat out of two of India's five matches in the World Twenty20. Zaheer, Gambhir and Nehra missed matches at various stages of the IPL, and Nehra was picked for India even before he had returned to full fitness for Delhi Daredevils.