After yet another loss in a away game, this time at Sydney, the Indian team are in turmoil. The pressure playing away from India is taking its toll on the line-up. What have been the reasons and what needs to be done is the question that need to be asked and answered and fast.
The captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is Mr Cool, so to speak. It's absolutely fine to be calm and unflustered but when plan 'A' fails a captain needs to be pro-active and quickly move onto plan 'B' or even 'C'. This is more so when you have a bowling line-up that is toothless and will struggle to get twenty wickets on most tracks. Sitting back, looking to stifle runs and waiting for the opposition to make a mistake is not what great captains are made of. It might work in limited overs cricket where the batsman take risks but in Test cricket allowing the batsman to keep the scoreboard ticking is nothing short of criminal.
In the last one year Indian batsman have made only five Hundreds in games away from home. Four have been scored by Rahul Dravid and one by Sachin Tendulkar. This is clear indication that the Indian batsman have failed their team. Players like Sehwag, Gambhir, Laxman, Kohli and Yuvraj have been tried and tested but all have failed.
Harbhajan Singh has been dropped and this was a bold decision, though about a year later from when it should have happened. His replacement, Ravichandran Ashwin has been a revelation. Though Ashwin is yet to dominate away from home with the ball, like he has done at home, he has been superb with the bat.
Zaheer Khan has just came back from injury and is a top performer when on song and 'fit'. Let's be frank about Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Sreesanth and the rest; they are diabolical. Would they get into any of the other five teams around the top six? Not a chance.
Though having a poor bowling line-up can't be the captains and coach's fault. Having that abundance of talent in the batting ranks and rarely getting passed 300 surely is. Sachin Tendulkar seems to be suffering from pressure of getting to that elusive Hundredth100. Once he gets there, it will open the flood gates. Dravid is superb and has been a lone warrior in away games whereas Sehwag can change a game and must be persisted with. Gambhir has been poor for two years now and must make way for Mukund. Rohit Sharma is the best Indian player against pace and has to be drafted in. VVS Laxman, has gone from being Very Very Special Laxman to having lost it. He is a shadow of a player he once was and had to be replaced. Virat Kohli looks great on flat pitches at home in limited overs games but in Test cricket he is a sitting duck, just not ready at the moment. Suresh Raina has a deficiency against bounce and short pitched bowling so my call would go for Badrinath.
India need to make tough decisions with the side. Duncan Fletcher has been a failure as of yet. Yet I strongly believe a coach doesn't take to the field so can't be held accountable. A captain can and India's failures fall directly on MSD. From Mr Cool, he needs to stop being the nice guy and make decisions that would be the better for Indian cricket. The ball is in MSD's court and he needs to play it more astutely from now.
Imran also writes at www.khelopakistan.com