No game plan, cricket the loser

Sanjjeev K Samyal

Mumbai, Dec. 10 -- When Ian Bell took a single off R Ashwin at the Eden Gardens on Sunday he not only put MS Dhoni and his men but also millions of cricket-crazed Indians out of misery. And if "changes" announced in the squad are anything to go by, there will be no let-up in such Bell moments. The humiliating seven-wicket loss inflicted by England, who, if they win or draw the last and the fourth Test at Nagpur, will clinch a first series win on Indian soil in 28 years, is hardly a surprise. We had it coming.

Even a side like New Zealand had India on the ropes. Though the series was won, Dhoni's men were far from convincing and when England came calling, it was just a matter of time.

The unravelling of Team India goes way beyond a listless and out-of-depth squad. It is an indictment of the Indian cricket system - the domestic structure is doing little for the bench strength and the supply lines are clogged.

It showed when the selection committee picked replacements for Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh. While it looks it's over for the three, their replacements hardly inspire confidence.

Only Parvinder Awana is seen as someone with potential. The addition of Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla doesn't make the team any better or stronger.

Jadeja recently made headlines with two triple tons in Ranji Trophy, but he was dropped earlier this year from the one-day team for inconsistent performance. Chawla's showing has been below par even in first-class cricket.

Experts feel it's time to look beyond Zaheer and Yuvraj. "Pace bowlers do not last long and the same applies to Zaheer," said former India captain and coach Anshuman Gaekwad.

The bowler was at the fag-end of his career, said Maninder Singh. "He was bowling at 124-125 km/hr in the last Test in Mumbai, which raises doubts over his fitness to play four Tests in a row," he said.

"The selectors must start looking beyond Yuvraj and they have rightly done so. With technical flaws, it's difficult to survive in the longest format of the game."

Individual efforts of very special individuals such as Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble gave India a Test high in the last decade but a repeat, sadly, is not on the horizon.

It was in July 2011 when the slide began. As 2012 draws to a close, the New Year is unlikely to be a happy one for Indian cricket fans.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.