Mumbai: Indian cricketers had become a complacent lot after their recent good run and that is the prime reason behind their dismal performance against England in the ongoing Test series, feels former captain and ex-chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar.
Vengsarkar, who has the unique distinction of being the lone non-English cricketer to score three back-to-back tons at Lord`s (on three tours), also felt the team had very little time to prepare for the arduous series against a formidable home outfit which was in the groove.
Following are excerpts from an interview with Vengsarkar who had gone to England and watched the first two Tests of the series. India are trailing England 0-3 after suffering massive defeats in the best-of-four rubber.
Q: Did you expect the Indian team to perform so badly before the series? What is the reason for the poor display by the team which just four months ago had captured the World Cup in style?
Vengsarkar: 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.
Besides, they have better attack and as a team they had enough time to prepare themselves for the series. India on the other hand had come back from the grueling series in West Indies, had a very little time to prepare and adapt to English conditions. I guess, the Indians had become a bit complacent after their good run in the last few seasons.
Q: Do you feel that over-dependence on one bowler, Zaheer Khan, was not ideal for a team which had so many other strengths
A: Are there any options? Let`s accept the fact that we don`t have options either in batting or bowling especially when up against a tougher opposition. We depend on tried and tested players even though they are coming out of injuries and not having enough match practice. You just can`t compete like that. Most of the players are in comfort zone and they know it well that they do not have competition at the highest level.
Q: Where did the team falter in England? Should it have played more warm-up games before the Lord`s Test?
A: It`s very important to have enough match practice before the first Test match to get acclimatised to the conditions when the team is touring out of Asia.
The conditions differ considerably from West Indies to England. The first Test of the series, more often than not, decides the fate of the series for the team that falters. It gets mentally demoralised, a situation that becomes difficult to rectify unless somebody comes up with an extraordinary performance.
Q: Were you happy with Dhoni`s captaincy when you were there ? Or do you feel he could have done better in terms of field placements?
A: What can a captain do when the main bowlers are nursing injuries and the crucial catches being dropped? He made it amply clear by removing his wicket keeping gloves and start bowling at Lord`s.
Q: Rahul Dravid played splendidly in the first two Tests and so too did VVS Laxman initially. Sachin Tendulkar too showed glimpses of his class. Do you feel it`s the right time to think about the future after the exit of these stalwarts and groom people like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli seriously to take over the reins?
A: Of course. The job of the selectors is to spot talent and groom it. They must show vision for the future. Anybody can pick the playing eleven but what about the replacements? That`s where the problem lies. It`s more important to find players beyond Rohit and Virat too. Everything`s fine as long as you are winning but one has to be ready for any eventuality.
Q: Which other young batsman from India has impressed you and according to you can be the answer once these stalwarts retire.
A: To be honest I have not watched much of our domestic cricket of late so it`s unfair for me to comment but I guess the players who at the moment are doing well in the Emerging players tournament in Australia must get a look in. However, the people who are manning the National cricket academy and the batsmen, bowlers and wicket keepers specialised nets, I guess would answer the question better.
Q: We are playing the West Indies till December 6 or so, in ODIs, and then straightaway going to Australia for the Tests. Is this logical?
A: Australia would be as a tough series as the present one in England. It would require at least a couple of weeks of intense preparations before the tour.
Q: The pace bowling department is hit by injuries repeatedly and some of the bowlers who had started off promisingly have become medium paced trundlers. Would the induction of guys like Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat put them back on their toes?
A: Fast bowling is a tough job and they need to be preserved. If they are asked to run in 20 yards and bowl their hearts out everyday, they would surely lose their fitness and pace too. It`s up to the team`s think tank to use them sparingly and most effectively.
Q: How much blame would you ascribe to the selection panel? They were given bouquets when India won the World Cup and before that rose to the no. 1 ranking. Do you feel that since they are professionals it`s time to question them about the team`s display?
A: The job of a selector is a thankless one. It`s difficult to satisfy everyone as far as selection is concerned. They are bound to be either criticised or praised for their policies, vision, ability to spot promising players and build a strong team.
Q: What future roadmap would you suggest to bring the team back on top in Test ranking, especially as another tough tour of Australia is coming up towards the end of the year?
A: I feel proper planning, forming policies that would give positive results and to streamline the process that would be full proof and most effective for the present and for the future.