There is nothing more intelligent than hindsight. Absolutely nothing. You might have taken your most calculated risk ever but if you fail, you will have the world coming hard at you saying how stupid your move was. How failure was written all over it. Why did you do it?
If it succeeds, well – nobody has had as many fathers ever as the word called success.
Hence any analysis, of that 3-1 debacle in England, has to be discounted for the intelligence which comes from hindsight. Yet we, being human, cannot do it. We all make that mistake – all of us.
I have read a few reports on last series. Apart from this wonderful piece from Jarrod Kimber, I couldn't see a single one devoid of this malice. I used to be a fan of Sid Monga. Alas, some of his last pieces may have lost a fan in me. Here he argues how bringing back Gautam Gambhir was a bizarre selection move. I don’t remember him backing Dhawan after third test. I don’t remember anybody backing Dhawan after third test. Alas, like everyone else, Monga also had the benefit of hindsight. He enjoyed it in his analysis.
I am no fan of Ayaz Menon (@cricketwallah). No disrespect but I am not his fan. I think I have this right. I hope he wouldn't mind. But I follow him on twitter. I remember his tweet (after loss in Southampton) about how India’s strategy of going back to theory of four bowlers was defensive and indicated a negative mindset.
Safety first tactics, exemplified by including extra batsman despite having won previous Test with 5 bowlers was the other bummer...
When I asked him how many overs did India’s fifth bowler bowled in first two tests, I didn’t get a reply. Another reason could be that on twitter, celebrities don’t reply to unknowns. I have no issues with that. I am a nobody.
Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha), after 4th test I think, criticized selecting a workhorse in Pankaj Singh over a faster but erratic bowler in Varun Aaron. It is a different matter that when Pankaj Singh made his debut, the mood all around was so good as if he had won noble peace prize. I asked him on twitter if he had made this observation public before third test started. Well, you know rules of twitter. They applied.
Jamie Alter (@jamie_alter) slammed Ishant’s bowling on third morning of last test.
Jamie Alter @jamie_alter Problem is not of no-balls, its Ishant Sharma. Seriously lacks a cricketing brain #EngvInd
I reminded him how he had praised same bowler’s similar bowling after Lord’s.
Well bowled, Ishant. Hope this proves the change in career graph that we've been waiting for for too long ##EngvInd
Thankfully he replied saying bowling in Lord’s was as bad as on that day – Ishant got lucky. I showed him his tweet. The tweet had praise written all over it. He said he was hoping for future– not sure if he was hoping Ishant to improve or bad bowling to be lucky repeatedly.
My point here is not to pinpoint what Jamie had said. Or anybody said. I am just pointing out the shortcoming of human nature which often surrenders to the powers of hindsight. We all do it. We all go with what the rest of the world is speaking in what we thing world wants to listen to. Hence we just try to justify a result in a way we think everyone around us wants to. We just flow with the tide.
What am I doing then pinpointing everyone and claiming I am not doing so? Well, I am giving a precursor to my analysis of this debacle. The analysis, is obviously, has been powered by hindsight.
We shouldn't have played a 5 test series. We just shouldn't have because to play a series as long as 5 tests on a foreign soil in alien environment, you need arsenal to last. We didn’t have. Ishant was injured in second test and missed the next two. We badly missed him. The fact that India missed Ishant speaks volumes of the quality of arsenal we had. BK was looking like a sure shot contender of man of series till Lord’s. As the series progressed, he looked a pale shadow of himself. Other bowlers really didn't matter.
Logically a longer test series gives you more time to come back. But then, recent history was against us. This was a team which hadn't played more than a two test series outside India. Even their much celebrated predecessors hardly ever played a long test series. Two of 4 test series will be remembered for ever – England 2011 and Australia 2012. Last time we played a five test series was more than ten years back in West Indies and we lost it 2-1 even after leading by 1-0 at one point of time in the series. That was a much stronger side. Before that, there was a 5 test series in Australia in 1991-92 and we lost 4-0. Yes, the 4 test series in 2003-2004 was drawn 1-1 in Australia but then, Australia didn't have two of their best bowlers available – McGrath and Warne.
Other than that, we have been playing 3-test series overseas. We have done well in some of them, yes. But then, we have failed in some others as well. After winning the first test in 2006-07 in SA, we lost the next two test. Had we played two more, I am not too confident we would have won or saved. And that, was one of our best teams ever playing in SA.
So I am not sure if sending our least experienced (and probably weakest too) to play a 5 test series in alien conditions was a good idea. The team is in transition. Or rather, is in infancy after transition. When did we go through such phase last time? 1993 maybe, after the world cup and on tour to South Africa? We had some experience with us – Azhar, Kapil and Ravi Shastri. Young brigades had names like Tendulkar, Kumble, Srinath who went on to become big names. But then, there is no point talking about them in this scenarios – who knows what current crop will become in coming years. We lost 1-0 to a team which was making a comeback in international cricket after 23 years.
1996 in England – Sachin, Azhar, Kumble and even Srinath had become stable members in the side. Ganguly and Dravid made their debut in this series and rest is history. We lost the series 1-0. And that England team was weaker than this. Ronny Irani played for them.
Compared to those two, I would consider this team to be least experienced and maybe weakest too. Most experienced batsman in this line up was MSD who isn’t really a batsman in this format. Yet, he turned out to be second best scorer. Second most experienced player Ishant, was, is and will always be Ishant.
Bhogle later commented that a five test series tests you like no other. Why do you send such a team for such a test is beyond me? Maybe you can argue with the logic of throwing a baby to the water and all that, but then I would say – baby sank, you knew it would hence don’t whine about it. Or at least, don’t let hindsight lighten your analysis.
Well, if this was a 3 test series, 1-1 wouldn't have looked that bad. Reasons like testing the team, if transition is good or bad, if such a strong test will do more good than harm to the new crop, if long series has given sufficient time to Virat and Anushka to work on their relationship can all go to hell. If you are really too bothered by this result of 3-1, don’t tell me you would've been happier with a 3 test series. Even their predecessors hardly played a longer series and when they did, they failed more often than not.
Well, this isn't the only reason for the debacle. But a shorter series would surely have avoided it.
Not that we have lost for the first time. I would still consider losses in Australia and England to be worse than this. So, why the magnitude of disappointment is at its peak right now.
There is a reason.
Every time we have lost, there has been some hope of a revival. Playing for India used to be the biggest aim of all these international cricketers and we knew they would do anything to continue doing that. Alas, times have changed.
The monster called IPL gives them options.
Irfan Pathan came like a bang, gave hope, lost form, lost place, lost pace, lost swing, regained fitness, came back, won us Perth, scored a 100, lost form, lost place, got injured, got fit and played IPL. Since then, the long sentence has got shortened – Irfan gets injured, gets fit, plays IPL, gets injured, dances on some TV show, gets fit, plays IPL and then again gets injured.
RP Singh used to be a fantastic bowler who could swing consistently at 140+kph, had a good arm, and didn’t throw away his wicket. He was good. Last time I remember him doing well for India was in Australia 2008. IPL started in 2008. Since then, he has almost gone missing. When he was recalled in England 2011, he arrived with a tummy which looked to have hidden a Parthiv Patel inside it. When you are outside the team, you are supposed to be burning with desire to come back and should be ready to bowl even woken up from sleep. Alas, RP was woken up in Miami. In that shape.
If I am not wrong, RP wasn't even considered good enough to play in last auction.
Then there is Munaf who shrugs away sixes hit on him in IPL and spends rest of the year in hiatus. Manoj Tiwary is Irfan Pathan of batting. Unmukt Chand couldn't even succeed in IPL. Varun Aaron has played more IPL seasons than number of tests. Tendulkar preferred playing IPL over a test series in West Indies. Sehwag delayed a surgery because of IPL.
I am not even talking about how this tournament plays with the technique/temperament of batmen or bowlers. That’s secondary. Primary is motivation. And that seems to have become IPL.
The new generation has that option. They may not care. That’s the fear. I hope they know that decline in quality of cricket they play for India will surely have adverse impact on IPL. But then, who thinks that much. I cannot really blame them. If I can make 3 year’s salary in 2 months, why would I take the pain of coming to office every day?
How I wish all these players skip IPL2015, sign up a contract with some county, work on whatever was missing from their repertoire in this series, become better players. Maybe a county stint will help becoming mentally stronger to counter a 5 test series too. How I wish.
But then, who can say no to money. Not many.
That’s why when I read the news of Cheteshwar Pujara deciding to stay back and play county cricket in England, I smiled. I smiled with hope.
How I hoped others too had skipped CLT20, stayed back after ODIs and played a few county games. How I wish someone like Rohit Sharma does that.
But then, Rohit wouldn't do that. He think he doesn't need that. After all he has talent.
And others, others have commitment. Towards the circus. Called CLT20/IPL.