The end of the current financial year marks a very resourceful point to assess an eventful year that has gone by. Such has been the turn of fortunes in the last 12 months that even an ardent fan would find it hard to rationalize. The IPL is round the corner and (sadly) all this would be forgotten under the pretence of short public memory. If India has to remain a strong force at the helm of international cricket, it has to address it weaknesses, rectify wherever necessary and not dismiss these performances as merely an aberration.
196 runs, 319 runs, innings & 242 runs, innings & 8 runs, 122 runs, innings & 68 runs, innings & 37 runs, 298 runs are the margins of the team’s infamous 8 consecutive ‘away’ losses. It is not a happy proposition to recollect these numbers but an imperative exercise if India has to identify and correct its weak links. India is not the only side who is losing away tests, but the magnitude of these losses should worry the team management. Not implementing corrective measures is a sign of timidity or absence of resources; for the same tried and proven (to not deliver results) set of players was persisted with throughout the course of these 8 tests. Wholesale changes or chopping and changing aren’t the most productive policies but the team didn’t appear to be perturbed by the losses at all. Of the 14 tests which the team played, it won 3 and lost 8; all the 3 wins against the low-ranked West Indies.
The team in colored clothes didn’t deliver results to its potential and description (of being the World Champions!). The team won the ODI series in WI, couldn’t find a way to win a single game in England, thrashed England & WI at home and a mixed bag in the following CB series and the Asia Cup. The T20 format too didn’t have joyous things for MSD’s men: 2 wins in 6 matches. If India’s performance in the tests was extreme (good at home and hapless away) the ODI results were a mixed bag! Twice India was denied a final berth: on both occasions it had a lot to do with the team’s erratic performances and the eventual finalist playing consistently well. While we rave about the new kid on the block (and the expectantly next batting sensation) - Virat Kohli, we shouldn’t forget that we haven’t had any other name to talk about in the last 12 months.
Hobart (vs SL) and Mirpur (vs Pak) will be remembered for two exceptional run-chases led by the spectacular Virat Kohli, but it was the bowling which left the batsmen to chase more than a run-a-ball on both occasions. India’s bowling has always been a problem and (disappointingly) that concern keeps growing. In the tests India’s bowling average with 39.01 was only slightly better than Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. India recorded the highest economy rate with 3.30 and a strike rate of 70.8 reflected the team having to field (on an average) 101 overs every inning! The ODI stats aren’t too pleasant either: with the bowling having an average with 35.86 being better than Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. Amongst major teams, India recorded the highest economy rate with 5.26 and a strike rate on the higher end with 40.8. Indian bowling big worry has been the inability to dismiss opposition, which hasn’t changed; the bowlers returned with figures of 6.58 wickets per inning (in ODIs) in the last 12 months. Out of 31 outings (in ODIs) the opposition scored between 250 and 300 on 12 occasions and twice more than 300. In tests out of 24 innings the bowlers let the opposition score more than 300 (and less than 500) on 6 occasions, and more than 500 on 6 occasions!
While the bowling was generous the batsmen had a rough 12 months. While the reputed batting line-up lived up to its name in the colored clothes with an average of 35.64 and a strike rate of 87.52 with 10 tons and 41 fifties, the performance in the tests was way below-par. Batting average of 27.06 with only 9 tons are numbers which the team would like to forget as soon as possible. Of those 9 five came off Dravid’s bat. The team’s struggle to cross 300 runs is advocated by the fact that the batting managed to do so only 5 times out of 27 innings! The team was dismissed for under 200 on 5 occasions. The individual stats have been dissected previously and thus repeating that exercise would be futile.
In retrospection Indian cricket followers would associate the 12 months post the WC win with Dravid’s sublime form in England, Ravi Ashwin’s burst into test cricket, Virat Kohli’s entry into the big league, Tendulkar’s 100th, dramatic loss in the one-off T20I in South Africa but it is imperative we shouldn’t let following things get out of our minds - the test tour to England & Australia, abysmal batting & toothless bowling in between and unceasing inconsistency regards collective effort. IPL will come and these two months could possibly erase all that has preceded it. The international calendar doesn’t have a tough ‘away’ tour lined up for the next 15 months, increasing the probability of the history of the last 12 months to be forgotten gradually. The Indian team will start winning once again, batsmen will start scoring hundreds, spinners will be as effective as ever but that won’t tell us whether the team has attempted to correct the existing loopholes. For the team to stage a comeback and move forward it will need to scan its performance in the last 12 months critically and not push that under the blanket, like it has done many a times!