Excuses won’t do, a new process essential

Whether Mahendra Singh Dhoni needs to be retained as captain is another matter altogether, but the bigger problem is that apart from Varun Aaron there was nothing to write home about from this series.

Well, who would have dreamt of a turnaround in favour of England after they lost the game at Lord’s? That’s what makes a five-Test series so special. It provides the opportunity for sides to make a comeback, but without taking away any credit from the hosts, I dare say that they were helped to a large extent by Team India. While the batting failures stick out like a huge lump of cancer, the missed opportunities on the field at Southampton allowed England to get a foot in the proverbial door. Of course, there are bound to be one or two dropped chances in a five-Test series, but pouching only 50% of the opportunities will have a telling impact as it did for India.

This obviously raises the question as to why so many chances were floored and that too by capable fielders? The answer is fairly simple — in recent times cricketers are not made to develop into all-round fielders in their early years.

This coupled with the excessive ratio of the shorter versions of the game do not allow for a lot of cricketers to go through the grind as close-in catchers. As one who gets to see a lot of first class cricket due to my coaching stint, I see this happening regularly season in and season out. In as much as batters and bowlers need to put in a lot of time to enhance their consistency, close-in catchers need to do so too.

But what transpires is that fielders swap places on an hourly basis. I do not remember specialist close-in fielders ever leaving the company of the wicketkeeper. As a result it does not become a habit during their formative years, mentally and physically, to stay focussed over a period of 90 overs. Interestingly enough, Varun Aaron and Pankaj Singh took good catches. Even though both the seamers saw catches floored off their bowling, they remained tuned in enough not to make mistakes on the field. This obviously suggests that the batters standing around the bat could not shake off their failures and concentrate. Unfortunately, the bowlers had to toil twice as hard to dismiss the opponents.

In as much as the batters expected the ball to swing and seam while at the crease, they somehow seem to have overlooked the fact that the same (swing and seam) would provide them opportunities out on the field. The young side does need to be backed when the chips are down, but not staying focussed on the field cannot be ignored. The Indian skipper must have spent most of the time off the field thinking about what he could have done differently. There is nothing much he could have done given the repeated batting collapses and fielding lapses. Yes, he did miss a trick a two as far as his choices of the final combination were concerned, but he led by example with the bat.

Whether he needs to be retained as captain is another matter altogether, but the bigger problem is that apart from Aaron there was nothing to write home about from this series. Aaron bowled his heart out and looked in a different league, Ishant Sharma’s heroics at Lord’s notwithstanding.

Pankaj Singh did not look as menacing as he does in domestic cricket and maybe he was picked a little too late. Team India cannot shrug off the poor showing in England as the time has come for a better process to be put in place. One can expect the home series against the West Indies to provide some comfort for Dhoni, but a real tough series is on the cards immediately after that. My emphasis is not on winning every away series hands down, but the quality that is displayed. Team India and words like inexperience and learning curve cannot figure in the same sentence anymore.