There were two paths in front of the selectors after the Kolkata Test. One was to carry on with the current group one more time, and see what happened. The other was to take a chance on some fresh faces while thinking that things can't get much worse than they already are. Judging by the changes made, I think they went for the second option. I will be keeping an eye on how the young fast bowlers stand up to the pressure in a Test that India simply have to win.
The batting has failed in two straight games, but Yuvraj Singh aside, the changes are on the bowling front. It's not a question of whether Zaheer Khan has been unlucky to be singled out for India's lack of bowling penetration. I just feel that he could have been retained with only one more game remaining in the series, given Ishant Sharma's lack of form and Umesh Yadav's injury. Instead, India go into a crucial Test with two debutant new-ball bowlers, Ashok Dinda and Parvinder Awana, in the fray.
There has obviously been a lot of scrutiny of MS Dhoni's captaincy and debates over whether he deserves to stay on in the role. I think he has said the right thing, that it is time for him to confront the challenges thrown up by the present situation. That is what captaincy is all about, and I think Dhoni's mind will surely tick and find out the right path for the team to tread.
Dhoni has been leading the Test side for four years now. Some, like Ian Chappell, think that's the shelf life for any leader, that you become stale afterwards. I believe it depends on the individual. Clive Lloyd led the great West Indies side for more than a decade. Also, the yardstick for judgment should be the results produced by the captain, not how long he's been in charge.
Two years ago, there was nothing to separate India and South Africa in a Test series. Now, Graeme Smith's team are undisputed No.1, and India have slid to mid-table. The entire team, led by the captain, has to take responsibility for that. The problem started in England, since when India have lost eight Tests in a row on foreign soil. A losing streak like that, in any situation or conditions, is bound to hurt and cause a huge dent in the side's confidence. That has been reflected in the team's displays against quality sides.
Too much has been made of remarks that certain players made before the series about taking advantage of home conditions. The reality is that nobody likes to lose. England have played very, very well, but I think even their biggest supporters would admit to being surprised by how they've done on this tour. After the way Pakistan dismantled them in the UAE, most of us expected India to put it past England. Now that things have not gone according to plan, Indian cricket needs to search within for answers.