Since the series loss to England, there have been attempts to see where it ranks in Indian cricket’s list of all-time lows. Some have compared the present situation to that in 2000, when I was given the captaincy after we had lost in Australia and at home to South Africa.
In my view, the issues now are quite different. That team had a lot more talent, and some high-quality players who were in their prime. It needed to embrace a culture of greater fitness, but its biggest strength was that all the players had one goal, that we wanted to be a better team home and away.
Win or lose, and there have been more losses of late, Indian cricket needs to move forward. For that, the team needs direction; it needs changes and fresh ideas. Everyone will need to be a bit patient as well, since big names cannot be replaced very easily.
The form of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, in the final innings he played, are the only two positives from this series. But sometimes, a loss can also be positive, as it works as an eye-opener and gives a realistic view of entire situation.
I don’t know what the team management and selectors could have done differently. I think India were outplayed by a very good side. The team was picked on the basis of form displayed in the New Zealand series, but unfortunately the players concerned were not able to make a difference. That is how sport goes.
I think the team will also have to reassess the idea of three spinners in the XI, as results in the past and also in this series have shown that such a tactic doesn’t necessarily work, even on spin-friendly pitches at home.
The team management needs to look at a more balanced attack. Both Ashok Dinda and Parvinder Awana are quite pacy, but didn’t get a game in Nagpur. I didn’t think the balance was right. Of course, we get to give opinions after the toss, a luxury which MS Dhoni didn’t have, but I believe that if India are to become a good side again, they will have to push young players and throw them in at the deep end.
The team is in transition and the selectors also need to be fearless. Ravindra Jadeja was in the team, picked ahead of Ajinkya Rahane because he could do the job of a third spinner, so having a fourth was a real luxury.
I don’t think India should be looking only at the upcoming Test series against Australia. I have said before that Dhoni has too much of a workload. Every time I have had a look at his captaincy over the past 15 or 16 months, I’ve come to the conclusion that the time has come to release him from captaincy duties in one format.
We continue with him as leader in all formats. Dhoni’s batting is important for this young Indian team, and we don’t want to lose that. A change should not be made in haste. The selectors must have a chat and ask him which format he wants to lead in, as he has done a lot of good for Indian cricket.
As for the other big debate, I have said it before and I’ll repeat it again that no one has the right to comment on Sachin’s future. The selection committee chairman or someone very responsible may have a quiet word with him to find out his future plans. If he wants to be a part of the tours to South Africa and England in 2013-14, then he should be allowed to have his way. If he doesn’t have such a plan, then he should be allowed to decide how he wants to play it in the coming days.
None of these issues should take away from the fact that India lost to a much superior side. England’s batsmen stood up when it mattered the most for the team. Their spinners bowled better than ours, and in crunch situations, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Matt Prior all put their hands up for the side. That’s what makes a team special.