Humiliating losses have damaging after-effects. Team spirit evaporates quickly in a dressing room full of outwitted, out-of-form and thus edgy players. Soon the collective goal of fighting as one to put it across the rivals fades and, at a sub-conscious level, survival instincts take over. Now, the usual fight for spots within the team doesn’t remain healthy and competitive. It turns ugly.
It’s also tough for decision-makers to be fair and make the right choice on the eve of the match. That’s because there are no right choices. From a pool of under-achievers, they have to fish out the ‘right’ playing XI. Choosing the ‘better’ from a group of ‘goods’ is easier than deciding who’s bad and who’s worse. It’s a no-win situation. Wrong choice by the captain would result in him facing allegations of favouritism plus sulking teammates. It’s a scenario that fractures teams. These were the fears that the Indian team faced, as they left Manchester.
On the way to London, a couple of days after the innings defeats at Old Trafford, there would be several pensive faces staring out of the team bus. The last Tests of disappointing series are generally career-deciding games. Reputations will be at stake at the Oval. If it ends with a 3-1 scoreline for England, some of the tourists might not wear the India whites again or, maybe, never be trusted for an assignment abroad.
It’s a panic situation. At the training nets in the coming days, while thinking about their rivals in the England dressing room, there will be those in the Indian camp who would be looking over their shoulders for the team-mates who might be fighting for the same spot as them.
Here’s looking at those who might not quite walk into the playing XI at the Oval and also those who are in the running for the same spot.
Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin: The word from the Oval is that it’s a pacy track. England seemed to have cracked the pitch-code after the Lord’s misadventure. In case Dhoni does get swayed by the look of the pitch or goes by the word floating around, he might have to pick one among these two spinners. Jadeja hasn’t continued…