When, early in May, India announced their squad for the Test matches this English summer ~ and nearly a month was to pass before their departure for Blighty ~ no one, expert or layabout, detected in the selections a suitability for ludo or bagatelle.
On the contrary, a certain buoyant optimism marked the build-up, with some august personages, responding to an inquisitive media, going to the extent of forecasting India’s victory margin against the hosts.
But now, some way into July, very little of the robust, or even jaunty, self-confidence can be discerned in the way the team seem to be going about their business. They sound like Scooby alerted to another ordeal.
Anonymous quotations in large segments of the Press fuel suspicions of an ideological confrontation between the team management, which wants Prithvi Shaw and Devdutt Padikkal now that opener Shubman Gill is injured, and the selectors, who recommend stand-by Abhimanyu Easwaran, of Bengal, for the top-order slot. “There’re as many as 23 players currently in England for them to choose from and they want two more yet,” one in the selecting quintet is reported to have fumed.
“Easwaran will be out of his depth at this level,” the team’s high-ups are said to feel.
Which could mean captain Virat Kohli doesn’t think the world of him.
But Shaw had been dropped after failing in Australia and the in-demand duo’s subsequent runs were made in white-ball matches. But the cold war drags on and those who loudly wonder why seem inclined not to point at the loss of self-belief within the touring contingent in England in the wake of India’s abject capitulation in the World Test Championship.
The walloping India found themselves at the receiving end of was the direct outcome of their failure, twice, with the bat in the match.
They had been expected to wring New Zealand’s neck but they ended up wringing their own hands. Their middle-order soild pillar, Cheteswar Pujara, stands condemned by their own captain, who has threatened an overhauling of the team.
And if the moving ball probed and exposed quite a few Indian players’ vulnerabilities in the high-altitude exchanges, well might the visitors now be feeling rather low anticipating more of the same hostile treatment from England’s seasoned purveyors of pace and swing.
Having taken it on the chin when losing a Test series 1-3 in India when they felt they’d been done in by means of wicket-doctoring, England are now quite unlikely to pass up an opportunity to make the most of the advantage when they hold it. England, in that series, had pulled ahead 1 – 0 before the Indians had the cricket board’s own curator given the bum’s rush, taking the pitch-making over at Chepauk.
Eden Gardens and Motera knew it all. Since things going round have been known to come around as well, India’s batting stalwarts are now obliged to set an example for rookies like Easwaran in coping with the trident of pace, bounce and swing.