SPORT OPINION: ‘India need to accept the truth and stop living in denial’

Now that they have failed abysmally, it’s time for the BCCI to realise they are living in the past. No matter what happens in the fourth and final Test in Nagpur, this series should be viewed as a complete and utter disaster by the hosts. Nothing less than a convincing series victory could have atoned up for the humiliating 4-0 defeats suffered in England and Australia. But the fact that they can now only share the honours in this current series proves what many thought following those overseas drubbings – that at best India are a middle of the road team and at worst they’d be lucky to beat Bangladesh.

Blaming alleged doctored green-tops for such pathetic performances sounded like a good excuse, but the truth is India have been living in denial which Alastair Cook and Co have exposed.

Even having won all three tosses to date and on pitches tailored to meet their needs, the bowling attack has failed to make any impact since the first Test in Ahmedabad, while their fielding would make Phil Tufnell look like Jonty Rhodes.

Possessing a team of committed and competent fielders should be the bare minimum for an international team. But India would struggle to cut it in park cricket judging by the lethargic and uninterested way they’ve gone about their business in the field, particularly in Kolkata.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Co could still have a chance to win in the series had Cheteshwar Pujara not put down Alastair Cook on 17 at Eden Gardens. Ishant Sharma then let the England skipper off again when on 156, and although the match had completely turned in England’s favour by that point, the catch should have been taken.

Yet perhaps the most alarming issue for India has been the ease with which the England attack have ripped through their much-vaunted batting line-up.
It used to be that the only thing more certain than a flat track in India was the gush of runs that came with it from the local stars. But in this series they have been sloppy to say the least, showing a lack of patience more commonly associated with Twenty20 (hardly surprising given the country’s obsession with the short form), and whenever the blowtorch has been applied by the tourists, India have folded.

And it’s not confined to just one or two players.

Sachin Tendulkar may be copping most of the flak for his poor form, but Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh have all failed to fire and that’s the heart of the middle-order. The selectors have responded by dropping Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Sing for the final Test, but the problems run much deeper than that and require sweeping changes both to the team and the way the sport is run.

India are by no means the only team to become blinded by their own success. The decline of the great Australian side of the late 1990s/early 2000s can be traced to their home defeat to South Africa in 2009, yet it wasn’t until the Ashes debacle two years later when they realised how far they had fallen.
The Australia Cricket Board responded with a full-blown independent review and the BCCI should consider following suit. But the key to a review is complete honesty from all involved. Whether India can manage that remains to be seen.

PACQUIAO-MAYWEATHER DREAM DIES
If the Court of Arbitration for Sport had any credibility whatsoever they’d be throwing the book at Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather for serious crimes against sport. The Filipino’s face wasn’t the only thing Juan Manuel Marquez smashed on Sunday as the potential fight of the century was consigned to myth-status as Pacquiao lay prone on the canvas.

Of course they could still end up fighting, but the bout will never have the kind of appeal it had when ‘Pacman’ was in his prime and challenging the undefeated Mayweather as the pound-for-pound king. It may have been able to survive Pacquiao’s controversial loss to Timothy Bradley, but it won’t survive Marquez’s devastating overhand right.

The fight would have been the richest in history yet failed to go ahead as the pair squabbled for years over seemingly minor issues. Perhaps it serves them right? But the money matters little to us poor, deprived boxing tragics, desperate to witness the biggest bout since the ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ and a rivalry that could have gone down as one for the ages.
No, we’ll never see such a spectacle nor discover just who was the best boxer of this generation.

And for that alone, both Mayweather and Pacquiao deserve an uppercut.

SPORT OPINION: 'India need to accept the truth and stop living in denial'

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