Bangalore: In To a Mouse, Robert Burns wrote: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft a-gley (often go awry)". Nowhere is that more true than in professional sport. On a bad day, Barcelona, a team whose style has made it popular even among football illiterates, can see a 15-month unbeaten run on home turf end against Hercules, a side who few outside Spain have even heard of. Australia, then champions of all they surveyed, can lose a Twenty20 match against a Zimbabwe team considered so poor they were exiled from the Test arena. Unknown North Koreans playing The Game of Their Lives can upset Italy at the football World Cup.
These things happen. And as much as home advantage matters, followers of Indian cricket have seen enough over the past decade to know that there's no such thing as a home banker. If there was, Australia would never have lost to India on a Perth pitch (2008), where only West Indies had beaten them since 1985. Or think of Durban in 2010, a seamer-friendly pitch where South Africa - victors by an innings at Centurion - were expected to romp home.
The problem with most analysis of any Indian victory or defeat is the Cyclops Syndrome. It tends to view things merely from one-eyed Indian perspective. The fact that there was another team playing the match - often with world-class players of their own - is completely overlooked. Instead of admitting that Kevin Pietersen scripted an innings that will be remembered as long as the game's played - like McCabe's 232 or Laxman's 281 - or accepting that Monty Panesar's fingers were touched with magic at the Wankhede, the basic instinct is to pour scorn on MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli. Why let two incredible performances come in the way of a chance to call one of your own players a chump?
India played badly in Mumbai. They were well beaten. The spinners were comprehensively outbowled by their English counterparts. The middle order looked as flaky as day-old pastry. These are all facts. But they don't justify the outpouring of angst and vitriol seen over the past 24 hours.
A little over a week ago, India won by nine wickets in Ahmedabad. That wasn't a perfect performance either, heavily reliant as it was on Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara with the bat and Pragyan Ojha and Umesh Yadav with the ball. This is a team in transition, a team with problems. Did anyone really expect that they would miraculously vanish with one win?
If you want to mock certain players, why not then suggest replacements? Zaheer Khan has 294 Test wickets, but only six in the last four home Tests. Spent force? Maybe. But do you see a conveyer belt of pace talent out there? Sreesanth once impressed the likes of Allan Donald. His last worthwhile spell was in Durban in 2010. Ishant Sharma has never lived up to the potential he showed in Perth or in the subsequent home series against Australia. RP Singh is on the Honours Board at Lord's, but nowhere close to the current side. Praveen Kumar, like Tim Bresnan, has suffered after an elbow injury. Yadav and Varun Aaron are crocked. Zaheer at least offers control and the possibility of a game-changing spell. Those on the fringes inspire no such confidence.
That's equally true of the spin contingent. Harbhajan was everyone's favourite whipping boy long before he got injured on last year's tour of England. Indifferent form in limited-overs cricket had coloured perceptions of his Test displays as well. There were lines like "poor run for 18 months" from journalists who should have known better, who clearly hadn't watched how beautifully he bowled at times at Kingsmead and Newlands. It's not as though he's keeping out the next Prasanna, Bedi or Kumble either.
The selectors have done the right thing by giving a beaten bunch the chance to redeem themselves in the third Test. Remember, they're not going to be playing at Trent Bridge or Edgbaston. They'll be at Eden Gardens, a fortress where India have won five and drawn two of their last seven Tests. Harbhajan has 46 wickets from his seven Tests there. Even if he doesn't play, there'll be enough in the pitch to keep R Ashwin and Ojha interested.
"Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go," said Hermann Hesse. India need to let go of Mumbai and think instead of Kolkata, which in recent times has been their City of Joy.
Story first published on: Wednesday, 28 November 2012 11:41 IST