New Delhi: Former cricketers have slammed the Indian team`s "abject surrender" to England in their Test series whitewash, saying tough decisions are needed to improve performance and the fitness of the team.
The former cricketers said it was time to infuse new talents in the team and groom them properly while also stressing on the need to monitor the fitness of the players in the light of frequent breakdowns.
"Even in defeat a No. 1 team has to look the part. Think Australia here. Having all these veterans in the field doesn`t quite help India when the chips are down.”
"VVS Laxman`s lack of athleticism has been taunted, albeit discreetly, here in England. At some stage Indian cricket will have to set fitness standards in the field, and when they decide to do that people like Laxman, for all the value he brings with the bat, may find it difficult to carry on playing for India with just one skill," former player Sanjay Manjrekar said.
Mankrekar was critical at the fitness level of the Indian players during the series.
"I have been very disappointed with Sreesanth. After his performance during the South Africa tour I thought India had found a world-class bowler to complement Zaheer, but once again Sreesanth has shown that he can only provide occasional flashes of brilliance amid a lot of mediocre bowling.
"Maybe that mediocrity has a lot to do with his overall fitness. India cannot place faith in such players," Manjrekar said in his column.
Former Indian captain Kapil Dev was also severe in his attack and said an overdose of cricket could have been the reason for the humiliating defeats.
"Indian players did not play as a team. I am not trying to blame anybody but I think they played too much cricket. Within four days of winning the World Cup you play IPL. They then travel to West Indies for a tour and then from there to England. I think our players were going through the motion more than their love for the game", Kapil said.
Former Test opener Arun Lal was scathing in his attack on Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men and said that the country cannot rely on the 35-plus cricketers for long.
"England were decidedly far better side in the series, there is no doubt about it. It did not matter if India had some of the top cricketers in the world but under the conditions England were way-way ahead," Lal said.
"We need to bring in new blood. You cannot go on with 35 or 38-year-olds till eternity. There might be slowing down of the reflexes, weakening of eyesight etc. So we need to infuse new talent," Lal said.
Legendary batsman and former captain Sunil Gavaskar said he was surprised at the manner the Indian team capitulated in the four-match Test series.
"It was very disappointing. Everybody thought it would be a great series, but it was an abject surrender. This was not the way a number one team plays. They normally lose by close margins, not like this," Gavaskar said.
"Maybe the approach was wrong and the attitude wasn`t there," he added.
Former all-rounder Ravi Shastri urged the BCCI to put in place tough guidelines to revive Indian cricket.
"It was a combination of a lot of factors - injuries, lack of form. But this is a rude wake-up call," Shastri said.
"Tough guidelines should be in place, and we should have a core group of players for all three formats of the game. You might not always have desirable stories but that`s the way forward. That way, Indian cricket could get back on track in 6-8 months." he said.
Another former captain Dilip Vengsarkar felt that the Indian cricketers had become complacent after their recent good run and that is the prime reason behind their dismal performance against England.
"To be honest, I knew that it will be a tough series for India considering the fact that they were up against a formidable team that`s on song and consistent in their performance in recent times. I guess, Indians had become a bit complacent after their good run in the last few seasons," said Vengsarkar.
Former spinner Bapu Nadkarni said he never thought that the team would be outplayed the way it has been.
"It (Test series rout) came completely out of the blue, I never thought we could be so poor. We did not play even five per cent of what we were capable of. They made mistakes again and again," Nadkarni said.
"Some seniors appeared to be mentally fatigued. There are occasions when the body is willing and the mind is not and there are times when the mind is willing but the body is not. I thought they looked to be mentally fatigued.”
"Overdependence on one bowler, Zaheer Khan, was also not good. I have the highest regard for Zaheer for what he has done for Indian cricket but the question is was he fit enough after his lay-off to play Test cricket?" he asked.
Former opening batsman Nari Contractor said the tour was always a disaster waiting to unfold given the poor preparation.
"The preparations for the tour were not ideal. How can some top players expect to perform at the highest level after having not enough match-practice?" he questioned.
"All your top players like Sachin (Tendulkar), Yuvraj (Singh), (Virender) Sehwag, (Gautam) Gambhir did not have enough cricket under their belt before the series. Net sessions are not enough. They kept committing the same mistakes again and again. However great a player you may be it takes time to get into the groove," Contractor explained.
Former spinner Maninder Singh felt that youngsters at the Under-19 level should be properly groomed so that they can shoulder the responsibility of the national team later on.
"You will not get a Tendulkar or Dravid or Laxman everyday. The BCCI will have to ensure that the Under-19 players remain interested in the game and handle responsibility properly. They should be groomed as the future India players," he said.
Former India wicket-keeper Farokh Engineer lashed out at team`s strategy for the crucial tour and also came down heavily on team`s support staff.
"This team was unprepared. They underestimated the England side. England in England are a very strong team. We did not prepare well, we did not play enough practice games.”
"I don`t know what the hell Duncan Fletcher and these highly paid coaches are doing," he said.