It’s Time to Ask Questions of Shastri, Kohli, Arun and Sridhar

Indian cricket is a professional sport managed by amateurs for the well-being of superstars.

Updated
Cricket
4 min read
Indian captain Virat Kohli with head coach Ravi Shastri and bowling coach Bharat Arun during a training session.
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India’s best chance at winning a Test in Australia on the ongoing tour has been blown away.

While this may come as a surprise to many, it ideally should not even a bit.

Since the victory in the 2011 World Cup, India has had a forgettable record in Test cricket in what is called the SENA countries or South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia. India has lost in England on three successive tours (2011, 2014, 2018), New Zealand (2013-14 and 2019-20), South Africa (2013-14, 2017-18) and Australia (2011-12, 2014-15).

The only time India has won in any of these countries was in Australia 2018-19 and if you are a follower of the game, you will probably hear Virat Kohli & co rightfully trumpeting about it.

India has committed the same mistakes with the bat, with the ball and on the field. Nothing has moved forward.

In fact, apart from the fast bowling gaining some teeth, there has been more confusion in the ranks thanks to the chaotic reasoning of the Indian think-tank. Everyone is now on the edge in the Indian set-up, thanks to the idea of not letting anyone getting any stability in their thinking.

So we have an unsure Prithvi Shaw struggling to get going, and Wriddhiman Saha chosen for better keeping skills looking confused and wanting to play strokes. The stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari play just one format, so they are forever looking to retain their badge as an India cricketer.

The lead spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is forever looking to prove that he is good enough in overseas conditions, while the three pacers - Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav - look completely knackered by the time the seventh opposition wicket falls.

Let us get one thing straight: There is no one sitting on the sidelines in Australia or in India who would have done any better.

What we saw in Adelaide has happened ad nauseum for the last six years and especially over the last three years in the SENA countries. So, we have actually played to a script.

Just in case the COVID-19 lockdown created a fog in our memories, India lost the Test series in New Zealand (their last Test series) in similar fashion in two and a half days. It is now six innings and India are yet to score 250 in a Test inning.

But obviously that is forgotten, because no one remembers the New Zealand tour, just like this first Test debacle in Australia has already been dismissed as ‘madness of 60 minutes’.

The madness of 45 minutes in the words of India’s think-tank cost them the World Cup semi-final, hence Sanjay Bangar had to pay for it with his batting coach job. Why should these consistent Test batting failures not result in questions being asked of Vikram Rathour, the incumbent in the same role?

There is another pattern which has emerged over the last three years. India has always let the opposition tail wag whereas their own does not even bother to move an inch! On the second day, India’s last four wickets added a grand total of 11 runs, whereas Australia’s last three added a crucial 80 runs. Obviously, it will be blamed on dropped catches and tiring bowlers, but the fact is it is again an oft-repeated story.

India has allowed Sam Curran, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Kyle Jamieson, Keshav Maharaj and Neil Wagner to become heroes with the bat.

There simply seems to be no plan to wipe out the tail. If your bowling attack as claimed by India’s powers-that-be is the world’s best and some ludicrous comparisons are made with the West Indies pace attack of the past, why is it not good enough to wipe off the tail ever?

What does it lack? We will never know.

You would think that India would come back with a plan for the tail, but just like at Adelaide in 2018-19, Australia’s tail wagged brilliantly. We have had the same bowling coach, Bharat Arun, with the side since the debacle in August 2014. Is he only there to take credit of India’s fast bowling renaissance? Should questions not be asked about these consistent failures to wipe out the rival tail?

Then less said the better about the fielding, when you drop six catches on an absolutely clear day. On this whole tour, catching and fielding have been an issue. Again, we have had the same fielding coach, R Sridhar, since August 2014. While it is nobody’s case that a high-profile Jonty Rhodes would have made a difference, should there be no accountability for Sridhar’s role?

And what about India’s longest serving head coach Ravi Shastri? What has India won in Test cricket, apart from the 2018-19 Australia tour in SENA countries or in terms of ICC trophies since August 2014 that he continues to be treated with kid gloves?

The Test squad is in an even more chaotic shape than before as the home wins are an aberration. Victories in West Indies and Sri Lanka count for nothing these days in Test cricket.

The abysmal surrender in the first Test will probably lead to a lot of social media chatter, lot of anger in some, but will not result in any dramatic changes in the set-up. The problem is still in the way the game is run in the country which is resulting in such shambolic displays in Tests away from home in SENA countries.

No boat will be rocked, no questions will be asked, no accountability set because there is simply no system in Indian cricket to do that. Indian cricket is a professional sport managed by amateurs for the well-being of superstars, all for the love of the game.

The only time we saw some movement forward was after India lost in dramatic circumstances in England in 2014. That disaster resulted in Shastri, Arun, Sridhar and Bangar being drafted in. Maybe six years on, after consistent disasters, it is time for another change.

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