Even for the worst critic of this Indian team, the series defeat in England and the shocking batting collapse of the top as well as the lower order, has been very disappointing. This was a team touted to conquer the world like no team before it had done.
Many of us believed that if there was an Indian team capable of being called the true champions of the world, it had to be the one led by the irrepressible Virat Kohli. Under the command of Kohli, whose fearless attitude combines so wonderfully well with his explosive batting skills, India were to be stamped as the best ever team to play for the country. The England tour was to be a formality to confirm India’s status as unquestionable world champions.
Alas, there are many slips between the cup and the lip. The team floundered and its trembling fingers failed to grasp an opportunity that would have given a new direction and dimension to Indian cricket. Among the many drawbacks, which obviously get highlighted due to failures, is the one which should intrigue everyone the most. And that is team selection. There is no consistency in the playing XI, as ever since Kohli has led the team, no combination has been repeated in the next Test. The extreme example is that of Cheteshwar Pujara, who has been kicked around so much, that it is a wonder he has still managed to stand tall, showing no after-effects of the wounds suffered.
In a team whose batsmen appear to be wielding sticks instead of broad bats, the moment the ball starts doing something, to treat a batsman of Pujara’s consistency with contempt, is something to be probed and not merely dismissed as whimsical preferences. To create the fear of insecurity in a batsman who has time and again proved himself in adversity is something that needs questioning. This changing and chopping is so widespread, a relic of the pre- Sourav Ganguly era, that it may have even created a fear psychosis among players, which will reflect in their poor displays. Another example of how not to treat a player is that of Kuldeep Yadav.
This mystery spinner had sown seeds of utter confusion among England batsmen in the one-dayers. He was being built as a trump card for the Test series as there was every possibility that his mesmeric spin would give India the much needed final edge. He was picked to play in extreme seaming, swinging conditions where he was bound to flop. He was sent home, while an uncomfortable looking Ravichandran Ashwin cut a miserable figure in the fourth Test in conditions where Yadav’s presence could have been the difference between victory and defeat.
Those who select the final XI seem to be in love with musical chairs, little realising that corporate culture does not go with building a sports team. Today, we have created a situation where no one knows who the axe will fall on. Fear is never the key to success. Kohli the batsman should know this. There is still time to learn. Better late than never.