The loss at Eden Gardens has left every cricket fan stunned and team India gasping for breath. The series was, predictably, being projected as the revenge series. Everything was to the home team’s advantage--conditions, pitches and the toss; and still Dhoni’s side was beaten quite comprehensively - that too after taking the lead in the series. India can still level the series at Nagpur, but this will not conceal the fact that there are many problem areas which need immediate attention.
India have had their struggles abroad, but at home they have always been a force to reckon with. So in that sense India’s capitulation against England is quite surprising. It is not very often that one would see India getting thrashed at home and that too in successive Tests. The last time India suffered defeat in back to back Tests in India was in 2000 against South Africa, and before that – way back in 1974-75 against the West Indies. In fact there have been very few such occasions when India lost consecutive Tests at home.
India losing two consecutive Tests in India
|West Indies||Kanpur||1958-59||203 runs|
|Kolkata||Inns & 336 runs|
|England||Delhi||1976-77||Inns & 25 runs|
|West Indies||Mumbai BS||1966-67||6 wickets|
|Kolkata||Inns & 45 runs|
|West Indies||Bangalore||1974-75||267 runs|
|Delhi||Inns & 17 runs|
|South Africa||Mumbai WS||1999-00||4 wickets|
|Bangalore||Inns & 71 runs|
|England||Mumbai WS||2012-13||10 wickets|
So what actually has gone wrong? This very team (with the exception of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman) were world beaters at one time. It's hard to imagine that the same team has become a pretty ordinary side within a fortnight. It is true that the void created by the retirement of Dravid and Laxman is not easy to fill, but what about the other players in the team? Is not each one of them a match-winner in himself? So, how come the whole team has come a cropper?
Actually, the slide has been gradual--2001 and 2011 can be termed as the years of transition for India. It was in 2001 that India showed that it was ready to take on any side in the world. From there onwards it was a continuous journey upwards, which saw a competent side turning slowly into world beaters. Between 2001 and 2011 we beat everyone at home and had quite a good time abroad as well.
The drawn series in Australia and South Africa, Series wins in England, Pakistan and New Zealand were the highpoints. When India won the 2011 World Cup, we were the number one in Tests and number two in ODIs. It was as good as it could get.
From there onwards it has been a journey down-hill. The team went through another transition after the 2011 World Cup. The only difference is this time it was in the reverse direction. The 4-0 crushing against England was attributed to non-availability of some star players, another 4-0 defeat against Australia should have made someone at the top take notice of problems plaguing this Indian side and put in suitable remedial measures, but the things were pushed under the carpet as if nothing had happened. The successive defeats against England at home have brutally exposed the chinks in the armour of this Indian side and tarnished the invincible at home image as well.
Surprisingly, this has happened when we have the same tried and tested bunch of players. It will be interesting to see how the Indian players have performed in two periods – from the 2001 to 2011 World Cup and thereafter. How has their performance with bat and ball changed after the world cup win? How many of them are performing at the same level as they were doing earlier?
The comparison is a revelation. Only one batsman - Cheteshwar Pujara – is averaging more than what he was averaging before the World Cup. The performance of all the others, has dipped and the dip is really astonishing. MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh’s averages have dipped by more than 9 points. However, it’s the senior-most members of the side, who have been the biggest letdown.The average of the big three – Sehwag, Gambhir and Tendulkar – has plummeted by more than 20 points each. This means that on an average the combined contribution of these three has fallen by 68 runs in each innings!
Rahul Dravid’s average fell by less than 2 points in comparison and he was still averaging more than 50 when he called it quits.
Indian batting before and after 2011 World Cup
after 2011 WC
Note: Virat Kohli started his Test career after 2011 World Cup.
On the bowling front all bowlers -with the exception of Pragyan Ojha- have disappointed. Zaheer, Ishant and Harbhajan have all underperformed. They are conceding far more runs and bowling far more deliveries to get a wicket.
Indian bowling before and after 2011 World Cup
after 2011 WC
after 2011 WC
Note: R Ashwin and Umesh Yadav started their Test career after 2011 World Cup
Another factor behind India’s debacle is partnerships, or rather the lack of them. Post 2011 world cup, the contribution from the first five wickets has substantially gone down. On an average the first five wickets contribute 69 runs less in each innings from what they were contributing earlier. Since the world cup the highest contribution from a partnership has come from the seventh wicket (39.96 on an average) and not from the top-5 wickets, which clearly tells us what how bad top order’s performance has been.