Published in www.cricketnext.com

Team India’s disastrous performance in the Test series against England has set the cat among the pigeons as never before. Accusations are flying thick and fast. Finger pointing is the norm rather than the exception and the players have had to bear the brunt of unbridled criticism for losing 3 Tests in a row.

Yes, the team has performed abysmally and yes they were pushed to the brink by poor scheduling and non-stop cricket. Yes, the series is already lost and with it the number 1 Test spot too. Yes, the much vaunted batting line-up has been miserably out of form and yes, the bowling has appeared worse than that of second-grade teams at times.

But is this shattering result indeed so calamitous that Team India cannot recover and get back into its stride in the coming months? Is it not possible that they can regain the number 1 spot with some shrewd planning and outstanding cricket in the contests ahead? Has this team not played remarkably well in all forms of the game in the last five years especially?

The players are not to be blamed for the extremely tight itineraries that are drawn up by the officials. They must not be vilified for the monstrously massive event that has been added to the Indian cricket calendar in the form of the Indian Players League (IPL). They have not to be blamed for lack of practice games and lack of acclimatisation on important tours such as this one.

What the players do have to be blamed for is their fitness levels and for hiding injuries if they have done so. Some of them are rumoured to have played the IPL despite carrying injuries, thereby risking their international future. This sort of unprofessionalism and callousness towards the national cause, if true, needs to be condemned in the strongest words.

As is to be expected, Team India has a packed calendar ahead. They have already been at it for several months and the authorities are eager to squeeze their energies further in the coming months. Systemic changes are certainly needed. But all is not lost.

What needs to be done is to get players like Rohit Sharma, S. Badrinath, Manoj Tewari, Ajinkya Rahane, Pankaj Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun and R. Ashwin into the Test fold in order to ensure that injuries do not debilitate the team as is the case in the present series. RP Singh has already been called up as a replacement for Zaheer Khan. Veterans like Wasim Jaffer and fit again players like Cheteshwar Pujara should also be kept in the frame in the coming months. Suresh Raina appears to be lacking in confidence at the Test level and he needs to regain his touch in the ODI format before being considered again in the longer version.

The team needs to have a clear cushion between series so that different types of oppositions and varying surfaces are met with adequate preparation. The IPL is far too long and needs to be halved in terms of the number of matches played.

These decisions require strong willed administrators.  The Indian Board should realise that they have been milking the cricketing cow dry with alarming repercussions.

Players like Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman cannot play below par for long, so brilliant are they, and they are bound to sparkle again. Along with the prolific Rahul Dravid they may yet display their class in the 4th Test at the Oval. The 5 ODIs to follow should also see MS Dhoni’s men in their element once again. A strong effort by the team even at this late stage of the tour would put a smile back on the faces of Indian fans and make vitriolic critics eat humble pie!