It is a valid question: how much lower can this team sink? The batting is in disarray, the bowlers lack a leader, the leadership is thin and the spat within the dressing room is threatening to tear apart the nucleus of the squad. After the high of winning the World Cup last April, the Indian cricket team has sunk to unfathomable depths.
With less than a week separating the end of the CB Series and the start of the Asia Cup, Indian cricket needs a shake-up. What are the most pressing matters? For starters ...
1 - Let Sachin Tendulkar focus on Tests
He's not scoring runs and he's not motivating the youngsters. His run of scores in the CB Series – 2, 48, 15, 3, 22 and 14 – give him a batting average of 17.33 and the manner in which Tendulkar has been getting out shows a legend fading into an undeserving end.
There is plenty to suggest that Tendulkar won't go easily, and so the onus is on the selectors to tell him his time is up in one-day cricket. If its inspiration they are looking for, all they need to do is look at the manner in which Australia's national selector John Inverarity took the call on dropping Ricky Ponting from the ODI team. Tendulkar's presence in the team upsets the balance and considering he doesn't have a lot of time on the clock, it is better the selectors create room for a younger player who can be given an extended run with an eye on the future.
Tendulkar still has plenty to offer in Test cricket, but in ODIs he looks a jaded figure. Let him focus on Tests, BCCI. Please.
2 - Drop Virender Sehwag
In 15 one-day innings since he opened the 2011 World Cup with 175 against Bangladesh, Sehwag has averaged 33.66. Exclude the 219 he scored against West Indies in Indore last December, and that average drops to 20.43. In the CB Series, he has managed 35 runs from four matches at 8.75 and his method of dismissals has been frustrating. Even before he has managed to get a start, Sehwag has been out throwing his bat at the ball.
"Five times I have been dismissed caught at third man or at the slips. I am looking at my performance and I have to improve for the side to win matches," said Sehwag after India lost to Sri Lanka by 51 runs on Tuesday. "I think I have to leave a couple of balls early in the innings and then take the bowlers later on."
On Sunday, Sehwag managed to not get out caught at third man or in the slips. Having pottered around ten deliveries for five runs, he drove his 11th ball back to Ben Hilfenhaus, who completed a smart diving catch. Sehwag's poor footwork and body position showed how messed up in the head he is.
And even though Sehwag's achievements as a Test cricketer are great, he cannot walk into the team on current form. More than ever in his career, he needs to be dropped to hammer home the message. In the past being dropped has worked wonders for Sehwag, so maybe it can happen again.
3 - Sack Duncan Fletcher
Just what India's coach is offering to this team is about as clear as mud. The results of his tenure are there for all to see – eight defeats in 14 Tests, 10 losses in 26 completed ODIs, and just two wins in five Twenty20 matches - but just what he has in mind is not nearly as evident.
From failing to avoid embarrassing Test whitewashes in England and Australia to now overseeing the row between players, Fletcher appears to be on slippery ground. The influence he had on the England cricket team a decade ago is nowhere near to pervading the Indian dressing room, and Fletcher's reluctance to speak to the media has added to the image of a stubborn figure.
When he took over after the IPL last year, India had won the World Cup and were ranked No. 1 in Tests. How distant that feels today. Only a few players have spoken about Fletcher favourably, and should India fail to qualify for the CB Series finals, it is hard to envisage how he can survive this disastrous tour.
4 – Push MS Dhoni up the order in ODIs
India's modern-day iceman has had to repeatedly try and haul India over the finish line this series. He managed to do so on one occasion, hitting a stunning six in the final over against Australia, and tied with Sri Lanka off the final ball. The failure of the top order to provide starts and the ineffectiveness of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma in the middle order has put more work on Dhoni's shoulders.
His ability to hold back until matters get really hot have been questioned, most publicly by Gautam Gambhir, but it seems to work for Dhoni. Dhoni is a slow starter and needs time to build his innings. In this tri-series his strike-rate is a poor 67.65, and his holding back on the big shots until the end of the chase is blowing India's chances of winning with a bonus point.
He needs time to construct an innings and the results show that when he's had time to set himself up, he finishes with strong results and India win. When he has promoted himself to No. 4 in ODIs, Dhoni has averaged 66.28 with an unbeaten century and five half-centuries. India have won eight of those nine matches. When Dhoni has sent himself up one place higher to No. 3, he has averaged 117.33 with scores of 94, 84*, 46*, 56 and 72. India have won all five matches.
Considering how poorly Raina and Sharma have played in Australia – and in the absence of Yuvraj Singh – Dhoni must bat higher up the order, ideally at No. 4 after Virat Kohli.
5 - Play Irfan as the allrounder
Whatever Dhoni's proclivity for anything to do with his beloved Chennai Super Kings, it has to stop. Persisting with Ravindra Jadeja for all seven matches of the CB Series has resulted in nothing. Seven innings, 101 runs at an average of 16.83 and two measly wickets at a whopping average of 142. Seriously? This is the first-choice allrounder the selectors came up with?
The better option would be Irfan Pathan, who in four matches has taken six wickets at 30.16 and scored 96 runs at 24.00. He has opened the bowling, come on as first change and been used during the end overs. He has delivered crucial strikes – he dismissed Matthew Wade and Michael Hussey in one over during India's defeat in Brisbane – and there should really be no argument as to who the more effective bowler is. Jadeja has bowled 52.4 overs for two wickets; Irfan 34 for six.
On top of that, Irfan's clean striking of the ball has left few with doubt that he is a more accomplished batsman than Jadeja. Considering they both bat down the order – most likely at No. 7 – it is Irfan who provides a big-hitting option as the allrounder. It's a no-brainer, really, as to who the allrounder should be.