So, there we go again. Another overseas series, another loss. All the hopes and expectations of renaissance were confined to the Ashes on Sunday as India stumbled on familiar territory. The 3-1 defeat with one Test to go, marks a hat-trick of losses for India in England – remember they lost by the same margin in 2014 after taking the series lead, and were embarrassed 4-0 before that, back in 2011.
At the surface, the 3-1 loss seems rather embarrassing and frustrating. But, those who have followed the series diligently would know that with a bit more application and planning the series might well have been 3-1 in India’s favour. That, however, cannot be a consolation for the number one team in the world. The fact of the matter remains that they failed to rise to the occasion once again, and crumbled under pressure.
After the shockingly submissive defeat at Lord’s, Indian captain Virat Kohli had made a passionate plea to the Indian fans saying the team needed their support. Him and his team them went on to conquer Trent Bridge and raise the hopes of a billion people again, only for all the talk of a record comeback to be quashed at Southampton.
What has been most exasperating about India’s performance has been that they have lost two Tests from position of dominance. At Edgbaston, they faltered chasing a rather gettable fourth-innings total and at Southampton, they allowed England to recover after having them on the hook more than once. How many teams lose after having the opponents down at 86 for 6?
The problem with this Indian team is they have been repeating their mistakes under pressure. It is really difficult to comprehend how a bowler like Moeen Ali, who has a pretty mediocre record otherwise becomes a match-winner against India, a nation where batsmen are born and brought up on turners. It is definitely more of a mental block than anything else. And the sooner India can find a solution to the Ali problem the better.
India may be the number one ranked team in Tests. However, their current performances away from home prove they are far from the best. In their last seven overseas Tests, they have won two and lost five, a record they clearly cannot be proud of. And, the argument of competing in most of the Tests accept Lord’s doesn’t count for much when you see the end result. The fact is that, for all the competitive spirit they have displayed, they lost 2-1 to South Africa, and now 3-1 to England.
Coming back to Kohli’s appeal to fans to back them, one feels they would be really confused. There seems to be no method to India’s preparations. They preferred to practice in the nets instead of actual matches in South Africa, to disastrous results. In England, they cut short their only warm-up game, unhappy with conditions. That’s not all. Smiling photos of Indian cricketers flash in our face on social media even after defeats, making us wonder if defeats actually hurt them, or if it is just a routine job for them.
Then there is the IPL as well, which further frustrate the real Indian fans. Kohli has been rested for the Asia Cup 2018 owing to his excessive workload, which includes playing two months of IPL. So here we have a situation where an Indian captain plays the entire duration of a domestic and instead is ‘rested’ for a prominent series featuring the national team. Irony or changing times?
There is another argument that says most foreign sides struggle in India. But, that assumption is also not entirely. England came to India in 2012 and defeated a full-strength Indian side, on pitches that favoured our bowlers more. India have since visited England twice in 2014 and as part of the current series. The 2014 defeat, under MS Dhoni, was put down as a learning curve. Almost the same team, has returned to England this time, with more experience under their belt. The results though have been no different. No lessons learnt?
At the end of the day, Indian fans would of course be willing to back the Team. But the question remains, for how long if the results are not coming their way.