At home, India canít afford to lose

Semi Column

The current engagement at home against England is branded as a 'revenge series,' but that is more in keeping with the fan's sentiment. For Indian cricket though, a lot more than feelings of retribution will ride on the outcome of the series.

The rarity of an Indian overseas win makes it special. Similarly, reversals overseas, a more or less common occurrence, tend to get discounted.

It is at home that India's reputation is formidable ó India has suffered just two series defeats in the last 20 years.

While the recent home wins against New Zealand and West Indies were expected, a loss against England, combined with a run of eight successive Test defeats overseas, will immediately put captain MS Dhoni's role under the scanner.

Or more specifically, his role as a Test captain. The idea of different captains for different formats is not exactly new, and will gain a little more support in the event of a loss. Dhoni himself has spoken of keeping off one format (read Tests) to preserve himself better in the other (ODIs).

As for the coach Duncan Fletcher, the fact that he had just stepped in, and that India traditionally tend to stutter overseas, perhaps bought him some breathing space even after the 0-8 run abroad. A loss at home will surely put the coach on borrowed time. Perhaps Rahul Dravid's recent call for the expansion of the role of the coach, in selection matters among others, will be taken on board.

The 4-0 series defeat in Australia, as it happened, was the last that Dravid and VVS Laxman played. The current series will not be as critical for the pair's replacements as its erstwhile compatriots. Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan have all come under criticism of late and it won't be unforeseeable if a home loss ushers the seniors towards retirement.

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