Former India captain Sourav Ganguly has slammed the team's preparations for the high-profile England tour, saying the amount of cricket being played cannot be used as an excuse for their poor show in the first two Tests. His comments came shortly after MS Dhoni had suggested that the start of the tour less than a week after three back-to-back Tests in the Caribbean had affected India's performance.
"I'm too fed up hearing this "time to recover" [excuse] - don't play for India then, you know this is what it is, you have to come back and play a Test series," Ganguly told Indian news channel Headlines Today / Aaj Tak. "And it was an important Test series, it was a marquee Test series to decide who was the No. 1 Test side in the world and you cannot say that. Okay you've lost and you haven't played well, the matter ends there, just accept that and move on."
India's No. 1 ranking is now in jeopardy after two thumping defeats to England, who now only need to draw the remaining Tests to take the top spot. Ganguly urged the Indian players to move on from the demoralising two weeks.
"You have to put it behind ... You are 28, 29, 30, you won't get to play for India all your life. Make the most when you get it, once it goes, you won't get it back, even how much you want it."
Ganguly also lashed out at India's "soft cricket" and the long-standing failings against the bouncer, singling out the younger batsmen who are yet to cement their place. "The number of batsmen who got out to the short deliveries today was appalling," he said. "Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Abhinav Mukund - it was an opportunity for them to establish themselves, Raina and Yuvraj are fighting for a place in the Test squad to get that No. 6 slot which is still vacant for a long long time now."
At Trent Bridge, Gautam Gambhir's absence due to injury disrupted India's batting order, pushing Rahul Dravid to the opening spot and VVS Laxman to No. 3 - a position Ganguly felt Laxman was unsuited for in seaming conditions. "Laxman is comfortable against the bouncing ball because that's his technique, he hangs back. But the moment the ball starts swinging, he doesn't get on the front foot. He should be batting five or six."
He also questioned the absence of a back-up opener in the squad, especially after Virender Sehwag was ruled out of the first two Tests. "You must remember - every time you travel abroad, you have to carry three openers. They knew Sehwag was injured, and you needed to carry some, what's wrong with Wasim Jaffer? What wrong has that kid done?"
Another source of disappointment for Ganguly was the batting of the Indian tail-enders. While India's final four wickets contributed only 118 runs in the two innings at Trent Bridge - most of those runs coming too late to impact the course of the game - England's tail put on 338. "You look at [Stuart] Broad, [Tim] Bresnan, [Graeme] Swann they had put a price on their wicket; but that was not the case with Praveen Kumar, Sreesanth, even Harbhajan Singh until he did in the second innings," he said. "Rahul Dravid was stuck with them in the first innings and they kept falling like nine pins. In the second innings, we saw today Sachin Tendulkar was batting and they kept getting out."
The series and the No. 1 ranking are still not lost for India, and they will be boosted by the return of Gambhir for the third Test, and two other key players - Sehwag and Zaheer Khan - could also be back. "India need to quickly recover from this; they have a Test match in Birmingham in a week's time, and have a lot of issues to settle."