Floundering fortunes

England captain Alastair Cookwith the trophy after winning the four-Test series against India.-K.R. DEEPAK

Overall, it was annus horribilis for Indian cricket. Hopefully, 2013 will be better than 2012.

India’s cricket in 2012 was very forgettable indeed, starting with the massive defeat down under to an Australian team that was vulnerable and ripe for the taking. India, the World Cup Champions, did not also qualify for the one-day tri-series in Australia, and to make the embarrassment acute, they were denied a place in the final of the Asia Cup by Bangladesh, who had played some outstanding cricket and nearly won the tournament.

India then had a bit of a break and went to Sri Lanka after the Indian Premier League. If Indian fans thought that it was good acclimatisation for Team India as the ICC World T20 Championship was to be played a few weeks later, they were in for disappointment. The champions in the inaugural ICC World T20 tournament failed to qualify for the semi-finals. After that magical moment in South Africa in 2007, it has been a disappointment for Indian cricket fans as their team, despite its members playing so many games in the IPL, floundered at the international level.

The English tour of India, many thought, was the chance for the Indians to get back at the tourists following the 0-4 loss they suffered in England last year. When India won the first Test in Ahmedabad, fans thought that it would be a cakewalk for the home team, and when England lost the toss in Mumbai and India batted first, the English hopes were down. However, England had learnt from their mistake of leaving out Monty Panesar for the first Test, and they brought him in for the Mumbai Test. He combined brilliantly with Graeme Swann to bowl England to an unlikely win.

It was skipper Alastair Cook who had shown during England’s defeat in the Ahmedabad Test that one could play Indian spinners if he showed a bit more application and determination. His century in the second innings was a monumental effort and inspired the rest of the team. He scored centuries in the Mumbai and Kolkata Tests too, and his example was followed by Kevin Pietersen in Mumbai.

Pietersen’s innings was an extraordinary mix of solid defence and bold stroke-play and along with his skipper, he simply took the game away from the hosts. India could have still survived if its much-celebrated batting line-up had applied itself in the manner that Cook had done. The Test at Eden Gardens was a similar disaster as the Indian batting floundered again. With Cook hitting another century, India were put on the mat and England won the Test easily again. The Indian batting was again a little careless and played too many shots when shot selection was crucial.

With the Nagpur pitch playing low and slow, England were able to bat well while India struggled till Kohli and Dhoni applied themselves, curbed their natural aggressiveness and took India close to the English total. What happened on the fourth morning showed how bereft of ideas India were when they batted for an hour and added just a few runs, finishing four short of England’s total. By batting aimlessly, India showed that they did not really expect to win the match. Until that morning, I felt there was no alternative to Dhoni as India’s captain because Gambhir was not in form and Kohli wasn’t getting the runs. But India’s indecisiveness showed that Dhoni was losing it as skipper and needed a break.

Overall, it was annus horribilis for Indian cricket. Hopefully, 2013 will be better than 2012. Here’s wishing the readers and followers of Indian sport the very best in the New Year.