Most of you must be pained by the humiliation at Ahmedabad. I am also hurt, just as any well-wisher of Indian cricket must have been. Obviously, there are lessons to be learned from the defeat. Obviously, there would be harsh criticism. Much of it would be justified, because was it not the same team that won laurels in Australia recently? The Indians paid for over-confidence, poor preparation.
True, the conditions in Australia were different, the spirit was different, and true, Sachin Tendulkar was missing at Ahmedabad. But then this is not the time to look for excuses because the Indians were soundly thrashed by a team that surprised most of us. I had said in my previous columns not to take South Africa lightly but the Indians grossly underestimated the South Africans.
The famed batting line up crashed in a mere 20 overs. If questions have been raised about their batting character and application, then the team management needs to provide the answers. Is this Indian batting line-up worth just 20 overs? The Indian team was clearly caught napping and paid the price for taking South Africa for granted. There are certain issues that need to be addressed.
The one factor that surprises me deals with the fitness of the players. M. S. Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh had to undergo fitness before the first Test at Chennai. Anil Kumble and Ishant Sharma were put through fitness tests before the second Test, which saw Sachin Tendulkar missing on account of a groin injury. How can 30 minutes of Tests decide the fitness of a player for a match of five days? What is this fitness business? We were fitter in our days. We also played good amount of cricket. If you compare, our cricket playing days were not much less. But we did not break down as often as players these days.
I would like to repeat what I said in my last column. Please stop worrying about the state of the pitch and do not try to alter them. See what happened at Motera. Stop blaming the pitch and the curator. Shane Warne and Muthiah Muralitharan are not known to moan regarding pitches. I can't remember Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar ever complaining about the state of the pitch. When you are a swing bowler, why should you worry about what kind of pitch has been prepared. Swing has nothing to do with the pitch. Bowlers like R. P. Singh, S. Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan should concentrate on swinging the ball. Forget the pace and look to swing the ball.
M. S. Dhoni must learn to respect the opposition and play to the situation. More application was required from him, especially in the second innings, but once again he got out in the 20-20 manner. He must realize that Test cricket is different and far more serious. I would also like to remind V. V. S. Laxman that we don't expect him to play the kind of shot he played to get out.
India now find themselves cornered. The team has to raise its bar at Kanpur and it will not be an easy task. It is strange that the Indians have begun to win overseas but lose at home.
I want to conclude with a mention of the empty stands at Motera. The administrators should take a serious note of the empty stadium. I think there is reason to rethink the rotation policy. Let Test matches be played at venues that promise spectators inside the arena. The empty stadium at Motera was very poor advertisement for Test cricket.
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