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Yet Another Sydney Disaster for Team India

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Time may have moved on four years, but India is standing still. The touring Indians are exactly where they were in January 2008, losing the Sydney Test to go 2 – 0 down in the four match series, except of course for the infamous "Monkey Gate" incident which one hopes never resurfaces again. In such a situatuin, it is only natural to perform the post-mortem of the defeat. Fans and critics alike will harbour their own views on the reasons for the debacle, and their are already cries in large sections of the media calling for the head of India's World Cup winning captain. Amidst the cries for changes in personnel and need for tactical amendments, the reality is that the core issue surrounding overseas disasters requires more than a layman's perspective.

Winding back the clock four mornings, one can't help but wonder if MS Dhoni made the right call on winning the toss. Had India survived the early juice offered by a fresh pitch by playing out the first session, it could well have been a flat deck feast for India. But the ghosts surrounding the England horror returned. Losing four wickets in the first session with only Tendulkar looking the part gave a feeling that the 1990s were back. 

It is but obvious for all followers of the game that it is a blend of psychological and technical weaknesses that is getting the better of the Indian batsmen. It will be naïve not to consider the lack of India's batting capability against quality seam and swing, not to mention bounce. The manner in which Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir got out in the first innings poking at deliveries they should have left alone shows the kind of work India needs to put in. Looking at Sehwag and all his achievements, it cannot be ignored that there is an issue with his batting when it comes to challenges outside the subcontinent.

Having said that, others barring Tendulkar have all succumbed to the testing wickets. One inevitable change that can be expected is a Test cap for the stylish right-hander Rohit Sharma. He proved his skill against the bouncing ball on the last tour to Australia, although it was in the one-dayers. He is a huge prospect and will most definitely be playing at the WACA and Adelaide.

Coming to the bowling, India couldn't have asked for a better start with Zaheer Khan's three quick wickets. More so due to the blunder by the batsmen earlier. But what happened after that is a story in itself. Zaheer lost his in-swingers to the right handers which forced him to go around the wicket. This really spelt disaster for India, as Zaheer is the person India relies heavily on as far as managing the bowling resources. Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma were inconsistent with their lines and lengths, which led to really high economy rates from their end. Also, they were not able to produce the scattered wicket taking deliveries they are known for in this match.

Ashwin rather than looking like a lead spinner was looking like a part of the part-time trio including Sehwag and Kohli. One change that India might think of is getting Pragyan Ojha instead of Ashwin due to his left arm orthodox angles to the right handers. Also, considering his stint with Surrey which fetched him quite a few wickets may hold pertinence before selection. But, it's a close call considering the number of opportunities given to Ashwin to grow, along with his obvious batting ability at no.8.

It's very important to state here that the major change required is not in the personnel but in the attitude. This starts from the captain himself. Dhoni needs to make a few amendments to his defensive style of captaincy which includes ODI field placements and inexplicable bowling changes. He can take some inspiration from Clarke as far as bowling changes and field sets are concerned.

But, all is not lost. Last time around, India was 2-nil down after the infamous Sydney Test, and turned things around in Perth. If they can take some inspiration from that and start to believe in themselves, there is no reason why they can't bounce back like they did in South Africa 2010-11. It will definitely be an uphill task but not an impossible one.

A parting thought - this is Duncan Fletcher's 12th loss out of 13 Tests as coach in Australia. Will this hold relevance or are we reading too much between the lines?