A much depleted England team and very low on morale, was given a fresh lease of life for none too clever a cricket logic. I can compare this particular Indian blunder to the one at the Lord's in 1990. Briefly, I was the cricket manager then. My failure to convince the then captain Mohammad Azharuddin to bat first on winning the toss fell on absolute deaf ears. I was furious then and I am furious now.
Azhar's folly was in England, whereas Rahul's decision on homeground is bound to give him many a sleepless night. A series which could have been safely wrapped up 2-0 will now have to be shared.
In Azhar's case, he played a brilliant knock in desperation, still finishing up on the losing side. Rahul, by his own nature, was far too subdued and appeared to carry the entire burden of Indian batting on his shoulders. The task was too cumbersome and not enough supporters in the dressing room to lend a helping hand.
The timing of Sachin Tendulkar's physical ailments left a lot to be desired. English bowlers just needed this kind of information to create panic in the Indian ranks. Mahendra Singh Dhoni needs a bit of bollocking from team management for chucking his wicket away ever so aimlessly. Yuvraj too was out of character with himself. It all boils down to one silly mistake on the first morning of the game.
There is no way the Indians could have come back roaring.
Now the vicious circle will start moving -- bowlers didn't bowl well, fielders dropped too many catches; finally, the much touted Indian batting folded in both innings without any gumption of a fight. Back to square one and the need to go back to the black-board could never be over-emphasised. Andrew Flintoff deserves all the kudos for his all-round performance plus his rare pluck to lead from the front. He was the solitary difference between an Indian loss and an English victory.
Flintoff will return home seriously challenging the position of his two seniors -- Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick. Not that all was hunky-dory with this English team but they did simple things very well. Except perhaps catching. Here again, the Indians finished a very poor second. Even if they deliberately tried to field as badly as they did, they would indeed stuggle.
Where does M/S Greg Chappell and Dravid go from here? The defeat by England is a big dent in Indian preparation for the 2007 World Cup. Not many Bill Gates in the BCCI would even know what has struck Indian cricket. They are far too busy settling their own petty scores in police stations, if you may.
The World Cup is not too far away. All the players and support staff must realise this. And seriously get stuck into the seven one-dayers that remain for the Indians to pick up some deflated self-respect and dignity.
Now that Tendulkar is out of the international cricket for nearly eight weeks, Team India must fill in the void with utmost successful cricket memory of a batsman's strength and weakness; remembering the last time we saw a pitch like this and how we played on it.
The groundwork of the game involves careful thought, hard labour and lively appreciation of one's deficiencies. These are the basic essentials, well worth acquiring; for the cricket visionary can, with his knack, get inside the minds of the player he's watching and see how they might plan to resolve immediate difficulties.