New Delhi: Shocked by the Indian cricket team`s dismal performance in the ongoing Test series against England, former players lambasted the side`s lack of fitness, poor bench strength, the sheer absence of a fighting spirit and over-dependence on some seniors.
Down 0-3 in the four-match series, India have already lost their number one Test status and could well end up being whitewashed by a rampaging England, leaving ex-cricketers aghast.
Former captain Anil Kumble conceded that Andrew Strauss` men have been simply too good but that cannot stop the questions being raised about India`s lack of preparedness.
"There is some merit in each of the `whys` that have been discussed as the reason for India`s poor showing: fatigue, mental and physical, lack of culture of fitness, lack of preparation, the almost child-like belief that since everything has been going well so far, it will continue to do so and sheer momentum will carry India over the line, the injuries to key players Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag. It is a long list," he said.
"There is something very Indian about lack of fitness -- not too many players are keen on the hard work and the sacrifices that go towards keeping them at their peak in crucial series.”
"In India, we usually leave it to the players but some of the trust might have been shaken after this," he added.
But Kumble also pointed out that England were perhaps too well-prepared for the series.
"When the number one team in the world loses a series by a huge margin, their drawbacks get exagerrated and their rivals are often not given their due. England were too good for India, a fact that some fans might find dificult to digest," Kumble said in his column.
Former captain Sourav Ganguly said losing three Tests was unthinkable and India will have to ensure that it was just a one-off affair.
"You can lose Test matches but losing three in a row and not scoring any big total, it is something to be worried about. Is it a one-off affair or the beginning of the demise of the side we have to see," said Ganguly.
Another former captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, whose name the trophy of the India-England series bears, said he does not see much change in the way the BCCI works even after the humiliating loss.
"I don`t want to sound a pessimist but I actually fear that players are going to say that it`s only a bad dream, just forget it and get on. BCCI is not going to show a great deal of vision. Cricket will continue the way it is but I sincerely hope that some sense does come in," Pataudi said.
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.
"I think it was the effect of too much limited overs cricket. Batsmen tried to play too many shots which are rather dangerous in English conditions where the ball moves around a lot. The feet were not moving in line to the ball," he added.
Nadkarni said senior players looked jaded and the bowling was too reliant on an unfit Zaheer Khan.
"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.
Nadkarni also pointed out the lack of bench strength.
"People have been saying there`s bench strength but I see no bench strength. The time has come to take the older players into confidence and take their help in grooming younger players. There should be the ideal blend of Test-matured people and the youngsters in the team."
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," he explained.
"BCCI or no BCCI it`s up to the individuals to prepare well for the tour. The onus is on the individuals. Almost all our main batsmen, except Dravid, Laxman and Dhoni, went into the series without much match practice," Contractor said.
"Losing is okay but the way they lost without putting up a fight was very disappointing. And the overdependence on Zaheer is wrong. We have sent R P Singh as replacement and even he has had hardly any cricket recently under his belt.”
"Do we have the players to replace a Sachin, Rahul or Laxman? We went to the West Indies and barely managed to beat the weakest ever West Indian side. We failed to dismiss the tail-enders for a long time in the final Test (at Dominica)," he said.
Former India Test opener Arun Lal was scathing in his attack on Dhoni and his men and said that the country cannot rely on the 35-plus cricketers for long.
"England are 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.
Citing lack of preparation as the main reason for the series drubbing, former Test player Vinod Kambli said the Indian players were more focussed on the Indian Premier League.
"Indian team was not prepared like England. Right after the World Cup our team was more focused on the IPL and then the series against the West Indies. People thought we are prepared for England tour after the victory in the West Indies. They didn`t get enough time for preparation but that cannot be an excuse," Kambli said.
Kambli conceded that his childhood friend and batting icon Sachin Tendulkar struggled like never before in the series.
"This is a big failure in his career, and I have never seen him struggle like this. He was playing freely today but it was too late. It would have helped if he was playing like today in the first Test. But he could not take all the responsibility," Kambli said.
He also felt that Dhoni was not up to the mark as a skipper as compared to his England counterpart Andrew Strauss.
"Dhoni`s strategy was not up to the mark whereas Strauss had his plans sorted.”
On VVS Laxman`s poor form in the series, Kambli said, "A senior batsman like Laxman regularly got out after settling down to short balls - either caught behind or at slips."