Signs are ominous

There is no point in crying hoarse for the removal of either M. S. Dhoni or Duncan Fletcher.-VIVEK BENDRE

The slightest hint of discord, even if it is between just two members of a team, cannot be ignored.

The deterioration of the Indian team in terms of results has reached a stage where any amount of positivity or optimism expressed will be of no avail. The fact that the slide is gathering momentum needs to be accepted and consequently the reasons for the decline of Team India have to be addressed by all concerned. There is no point in crying hoarse for the removal of either Dhoni or Fletcher because they can hardly do anything if the batting line-up fails to put up runs on the board. However, that is only one part of the equation as the bowlers have not been extraordinarily up to the mark in some critical phases. The Test series against England saw the myth of Team India being unbeatable at home on turners explode much to the embarrassment of the team management. To add insult to injury, the World Champions were humbled by Pakistan at home in the one-dayers as well.

With the current ODI series against England not starting on a positive note, the signs are ominous. Of course, Team India can go on to win the series against the Englishmen but what needs to be looked at is whether it is a partial crack on the surface or if the foundation itself has become shaky. If it is a case of undercurrents prevailing due to personality clashes or fragile egos, then it is a crack on the surface that can be sorted through discussions involving the players and administrators. But if the issue is that the players are miffed with the team management due to its selective treatment of players then it can as well rock the foundation of the team. The reason I say this is because the players need to be extremely confident about the integrity and impartiality of the decision makers in the team. Otherwise the cohesiveness in a group of about 20-25 members (including the various support staff) can crumble like a pack of cards. In a team game, hunting like a pack of wolves is the key to success regardless of the sum of the extraordinary talent of all the individuals. Mind you, I am not suggesting that Team India is full of factions but minor irritations can creep in quickly enough especially when the going is tough. The important thing is that the slightest hint of discord, even if it is between just two members of a team, cannot be ignored.

The England side went through a lot of rough weather during their series against South Africa at home and also leading up to the tour of India. It took a series of discussions amongst the players and between the players and administrators to get rid of all the bad blood prevailing in the dressing room. It will take a lot of equanimity and fairness from all the individuals to sort things out but sure enough it can be done. I, for one, believe that the current players are good enough to perform much better than what they are doing at the moment and as such a forthright discussion should facilitate the identification of the missing link. The chairman of the selection committee needs to take the lead in talking to the players and sharing his future plans with the team.

The talk of replacing Dhoni has been the focal point for a while now and this can be quite a distraction to all those who fancy their chances of succeeding him. The individual ambitions coupled with the subjective reporting from some quarters of the media have not helped the team either. With the administrators making it obvious that they will back the players, the current need is for them to intervene and clarify on a lot of aspects. Once that is done, I am sure the team will get back on track sooner rather than later.