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The Anatomy of a Debacle: A Visceral Glimpse into Team India”s “Whitewashed” Ignominy

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By Pradyut Hande:

MS Dhoni and his men arrived in England as the Numero Uno ranked Test team in the world… with their sky high confidence, fabled batting prowess, continually improving overseas record and not to forget; their skipper’s Midas touch… they would have definitely believed that the English could be toppled from their high perch at home. On paper, at least, Team India looked a more than formidable outfit; capable of great things…some would say, riding on the “purplest of patches”, they were destined for glory. Verbal salvos were fired from both sides on the eve of the commencement of the high profile series. “Clash of the Titans”, they called it. This was an opportunity for India to rise to the occasion, consolidate their position and reaffirm their credentials as a force to reckon with in all formats of the game. But alas! Games aren’t ultimately won by indulging in intimidatory mind games or by drawing up a list of your best eleven on paper! Team India were in for the rudest of shocks as they were trampled; nay; annihilated, decimated and what have you (there is no dearth of adjectives in the English dictionary that can aptly encapsulate their eventual fate!) at the hands of an enterprising, clinical and ruthless English side (again one could run out of adjectives!). Battered, bruised and bludgeoned…Dhoni and his men were razed to the ground…whitewashed 4-0.

For all their initial swagger and bluster, the fact is India came up woefully short. Throughout the course of the series, seldom did they look like even a shadow of the world’s best Test side. Their abysmal performances have certainly raised numerous eyebrows and questions alike. A lot was expected from a team that had slowly but steadily grappled against myriad odds to make it to the pinnacle. But their “spectacular capitulation” has left both cricket aficionados and pundits stumped! So what actually did go wrong? Here’s a fair insight into the anatomy of the debacle…

Meticulous preparation lays the emboldened foundation for any venture. But it was apparent right at the onset of the high octane series that India was grossly under prepared. They came straight from the Caribbean having beaten an exuberant albeit inexperienced Windies side without too much of a break. Key players like Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh were returning from an injury layoff or a self imposed sabbatical. So while the likes of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar had a fair bit of “game time” under their belts; the other returning big wigs were woefully short of match practice. With just a solitary practise game before the series, the squad barely had any time to acclimatize to the prevalent conditions. Add to that, the fact that the returning players -most of them sure starters for the first Test – were struggling to quickly find their feet, and India had a mild headache to contend with even before the series got underway. However, these were proven performers with impeccable track records, albeit loaded with fitness concerns and were expected to fire when the situation demanded it. But alas! To say that India were “under cooked” would be a gross understatement…they weren’t “cooked” at all! As the series progressed, their lack of adequate preparation and inability to learn from their past errors became glaring in the face of mounting English “hostility”. There is no substitute for match practise, no matter how great a player you maybe, and India blundered majorly by blatantly disregarding this basic sporting tenet. The manner in which India’s pace spearhead, Zaheer Khan, broke down on the very first day of the first Test at Lord’s was indicative of the fact that lack of real time match fitness cannot be neglected at any cost. That turned out to be a severe body blow as in Zaheer, not only had India lost their strike bowler but also a mentor to the young fast bowling brigade. Other factors that contributed to India’s losses include player fatigue, untimely injuries and mysterious illnesses to key players. A top side would prepare for such adversities but Team India appeared to be totally bereft of ideas out in the middle.

It was widely speculated that having the former English coach, Duncan Fletcher, in our ranks would equip us with the in depth requisite technical and strategic nous and insights essential to “take down” the English. But, a manager is only as good as his team! And all that speculation came to naught as not only did India fail to implement their plans on the field but they also appeared to have NO strategy in place at other times, especially when their bowlers were getting walloped around the park by the very same English batsmen…innings after innings! The Indian batsmen hopped and hopped and hopped some more…as they struggled to counter the short and seaming deliveries, courtesy some poor technique, imprecise foot work, dubious shot selection, accurate English bowling and impatience at large. The fact that India managed to muster a total of 300 only once in 8 innings is a testament to the realization that our famed batting order was found wanting in testing conditions against a combative and competent English bowling unit. When application was the need of the hour, the Indian batsmen chose to waft their bats at deliveries they would have been better served had they left well alone. The technical deficiencies in batsmen like Gautam Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh were gravely exposed. The less said, the better, about Virender Sehwag’s swashbuckling approach in the final two tests! The Indians also had 3 different opening combinations in 4 Test matches, courtesy injuries and lack of form. That perhaps is an indication of how unsettled the entire batting order was, given how certain batsmen were shunted up and down the order. Amongst the ruins, one man who stood head and shoulders above the rest was undoubtedly Rahul Dravid. His sheer technical brilliance, hunger for runs, mental and physical fortitude and penchant for gritting it out at the toughest of times…made him a stand out performer as he notched up 3 sterling centuries (2 of them while opening the batting!). Unsurprisingly, those were the only 3 centuries registered by India in the series! While VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni flattered to deceive; Dravid nonchalantly went about his job in characteristic fashion. It was a great travesty that his efforts all went in vein, but suffice to say, India ought to be indebted to him for lending a modicum of respectability to their often modest totals.

While the batting floundered, innings after innings, the Indian fast bowlers toiled hard and long without much reward. The likes of Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, S Sreesanth and RP Singh (in the final game); bowled their hearts out but to precious little avail. Consistency ought to have been their watchword, but unfortunately it wasn’t. Too often did they try too many things too soon, when they would have been better served by embracing a more patient approach. Much was expected from the “Turbanator”, Harbhajan Singh, but the beleaguered off spinner came a cropper as the English negotiated him with consummate ease. Again it was a grave inconsistency in line and length coupled with his disinclination to flight the ball and bowl slower through the air that proved to be his undoing. There were occasions when MS Dhoni actually threw the ball to a part time spinner in Suresh Raina ahead of Harbhajan Singh…the level of confidence or lack thereof, in his senior bowler apparent! Amit Mishra took his place in the final two Test matches and unfortunately failed to make much of an impact with the ball, but underscored his credentials as a gutsy lower order bat with some eye catching knocks! The bowlers often seemed aimless and appeared to be bowling to a plan alright…a plan to allow the English to runaway with the game and pile up monstrous totals!

While the batting and bowling tanked miserably, India’s woebegone fielding and catching left a lot to be desired. The simplest of chances were spilled at the most crucial of junctures. As the Indian bowlers clutched their heads in agony, the English batsmen grinned away…beneficiaries of our benevolent fielders’ well chronicled largesse! MS Dhoni’s captaincy also ought to come in for sharp scrutiny. Some of his “plans” and fielding arrangements simply defied logic. Granted the fact that he acts more on calibrated intuition and embraces the “out of the box” approach, but some of his moves were “head-scratching-mind-numbing-totally-puzzling” dead ringers that backfired most spectacularly – the price one must pay at times for thinking “too far out of the box”. His performances behind the stumps were none better than those while wielding his heavy willow. Barring a couple of half centuries in the third Test, form and his “golden touch” appear to have deserted the Indian captain.

In addition; Team India’s lack of intensity, poor body language and innate inability to “cease the moment” at vital junctures also put paid to their plans. The manner in which they capitulated without displaying the stomach for a fight was also glaring. Some of the batsmen appeared to be in a terrible hurry to head back to the comfortable confines of their dressing rooms. Suffice to say, this wasn’t the contest the cricketing fraternity anticipated. All it turned out to be a hugely one sided affair…a damp, damp squib. One would have thought that after surrendering their Number One rank, slipping down the ladder to Number Three and having already gone 3-0 down in the series; the Indians would have come up with a better performance in the final Test. “We’ll play for pride”, they thought… little did they know that the English were in no mood to repay our largesse…

4-0 it ended and India’s fate was sealed lock, stock and barrel! Blame the controversial UDR System, blame poor umpiring decisions, the conditions or multiple injuries…the fact is India never really turned up for the contest. They may have been pulverized out of shape, but as an optimist I’d like to see the bright side! Team India were a few notches below “pathetic”, but as an ardent cricket aficionado, I believe they can only get better from here on… ‘coz it would certainly be impossible to outdo their woeful displays on their torrid English sojourn!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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