Down and Out, Down Under! Testing Times for the Dhoni Brigade

The plight is tough to comprehend or to be written about. With a billion people witnessing their hopes run out when the Indian playing XI got thrashed by the spirited Aussies, the shocker of a series comes as an eye opener. No doubt, the Indian cricket team is going through one of its toughest times in the last one decade. After haven flown into Australia as the World Champions, India has been completely outplayed.

When India was whitewashed by England, on English soil, back in 2011, we at least had some excuses to stand by, and support the team. We were proud to relive the commendable effort from the ever-dependable ‘The Wall’ who scored three tons in four outings. We also found solace in the fact that our strike bowlers had missed the series due to injuries.

If that series was humiliating,  this one comes as an ultimate shocker. Dhoni’s brigade might have carried the pride of being the numero uno Test team in the world to England but returned with an embarrassing result of 4-0. Later on, the team ended all frustrations by pouncing upon a comparatively weak Windies on home terrain.

The latest series was much looked forward to, and India went in with the best team they could think of. The Fab-4 were present in the batting line up – Virender Sehwag , Rahul Dravid , Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. The bowling department was spearheaded by Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, along with R Ashwin – all lethal enough to destroy any batting line up. It was indeed a bonus for skipper MS Dhoni when Virat Kohli, Rohit, Ojha and Gambhir were also picked.

Even the toughest Aussie fans wouldn’t have expected their team to hand out such a humiliation to this world-class line up. All that, even as their youngsters, and seniors such as Ricky Ponting and  Mike Hussey were struggling to find rhythm.

Everything went as per the script in the first two days of the Melbourne test when Indian bowlers wrapped up the Aussie attack for 333. Hopes rose when India ended Day 3 on 214/3 . However, the drama was to unfold the next day. The Indian line up collapsed for a meager 282.

Australia added another 240 runs to their 2nd innings lead and set India a tricky target of 391 with 5 sessions remaining in the test match .Yet again, the famous Indian line up folded up for a paltry 69 and the result  – a 122-run defeat

That was just the beginning. The first test itself indicated that Australian bowlers have done their home work to tackle the Indian batsmen.

India was considered favorites for the second test at Sydney with the great track record of Indian batsmen at SCG. Dhoni, on the winning the toss, opted to bat. But then, the story was no different at Sydney either. Australia bundled India out for 191, 4 out of 11 players who went in to bat didn’t even disturb the scoreboard!

In reply,  Australia piled up a mammoth 659-4 with a historic triple ton from the skipper Michale Clarke. Former captain Ponting joined the party with a stunning 134, while Hussey added color to the innings with an additional 150. Trailing by 468 runs,Indiawere bowled out for 400. Thanks to tailenders Ashwin and Zaheer, the total managed some respect. But then an innings defeat was not to be set aside.

With the series defeat staring at the visitors, the teams then traveled to Perth. Dhoni managed to bring in Vinay Kumar in place of Ashwin so as to strengthen his pace armory on the bouncy WACA wicket. Déjà vu ensued, with the Indian batsmen mauled by the Aussie pace battery. Dhoni’s men were bowled out 161 just after the tea break on Day 1. Australia, in reply, made a quickfire 369, of  76 overs, thanks to 20-20 style batting of David Warner who made 180 of 159 balls. Trailing by 208 with more than 3 days of play left, the Indian batsmen surrendered without a fight and were bowled out for 171. A second successive innings defeat gifted Dhoni and Co their 7th straight loss on foreign soil.

What went wrong? A look at the fact file of all the three tests reveals that the main culprits are the batsmen. Critics, experts and former players now want the seniors to quit  May be, that may not be a solution. As no team can survive without experienced players and every team will have to see off a period of transition when their senior players decide to quit, the rush to send the seniors packing could be no panacea to the ailment.

In fact, this should not happen all of a sudden, every gap will take time to be filled. And, if all the seniors are made to quit together, lack of experience and match practice will make the lineup even more fragile.

Take a look at the Aussie line up, for instance. At least 2 senior players are a must in any squad. The Australian team had to face tough times when McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist and Hayden retired with in a short span of time. If India is to make a come back to the Test arena , it is pretty  essential to have a blend of youth and experience in the team.

After all, it’s the five-day version of the game and it is all about temperament, patience, class and handling pressure.

Though it is a fact that as age catches up, the seniors may not be able to serve the nation for long, it is also a must that we make sure the talented younger crop get to play under their guidance at least for a season.

If youngsters get to share the dressing room with experienced warhorses, it could even prove to be a morale booster, which the most experienced coaches might not be able to inject in them.