India overcame the horror show of the last four months by storming through to the final of the ICC World Twenty20 but their success in Bangladesh would have given their fans little consolation after a lost Test series in New Zealand. Mahendra Singh Dhoni‘s men had also gone down in the two-Test contest in South Africa prior to that and like other experts the world around, former Kiwi All-Rounder Richard Hadlee was at a loss to put into perspective India’s extended flop show.
After lifting the World Cup in 2011, great things were expected of a side that was on the edge of a major transition, but back-to-back whitewashes in England and Australia, followed by listless performances against the Proteas and the Black Caps, have added to a growing list of overseas woes. India have been blessed with a talented pool of young cricketers and it looked like Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma would take over effortlessly from the stars, who made way for this Gen.
The transition is still only partly complete with the Indian team not good enough to win outside its own shores and Hadlee put it down to the excruciating pressure every Indian player is put under.
“It’s very difficult to comment on why India aren’t doing well in Tests. Number one, to be an Indian player, you have to be very good, because of the competition from within. Number two, I think responding to the pressures is the biggest challenge for any Indian cricketer right now. Because you’re a hero one day and you’re totally pulled down the next,” Hadlee told the Times of India.
The New Zealand legend could not have been more forthright in his assessment given the sharp reactions Yuvraj Singh drew after a sluggish knock in the World T20 final against Sri Lanka. Yuvraj, who was the architect of India’s triumphs in the World T20 in 2007 and the World Cup in 2011, was subjected to ruthless criticism, with some sections of the media even wondering if it was the end of the road for the man who beat cancer, soon after guiding India to the world title in Mumbai.
However, Sachin Tendulkar‘s statement in support of the beleaguered cricketer helped and the criticism was toned down.
Hadlee did not want to talk deep into India’s failure in New Zealand and merely said the hosts played better cricket than the visitors but he did point out the challenges of constantly playing different formats of the game. While former cricketers, especially in India, came out of the virtues of the Indian Premier League, some others believe an overdose of T20 cricket, coupled with often meaningless ODI series have made Indian batsmen restless and ineffective in the more skill based Test format.
“Players have to adjust and adapt in skill-sets, tactics and theories. One is very high risk, T20s then ODIs, which are medium risk, and then Tests, with little risk but more testing on technique. Some people do suffer technically when they’re playing a lot of T20 or ODIs. Some batsmen run out of form because of the risks they have to take in the shorter versions. They become technically exposed when they play Tests,” Hadlee said.
However, the man who once held the record for most Test wickets before Kapil Dev trumped him to the pinnacle, believes there is room for all three formats, but insisted that the co-existence must not come at the cost of the longest version.
“They (all three formats) must co-exist. Cricket needs all three formats to survive, without compromising Test cricket too much. A lot of people do like Tests. It’s about manipulating an opponent’s skill and psyche. It takes time to do that. It’s like chess on a field. But you also need sponsorship and revenue. You have player wages, cost of travel and accommodation to take care of. You won’t get that out of Tests. TV has huge influence too on popularity,” said Hadlee.
India, who returned home from Bangladesh geared up for the seventh edition of the IPL starting April 16, are next scheduled to play a Test series in England from July and therein lies their biggest challenge against a side that is hurting from the defeat of the Ashes in their Down Under.