India's beleaguered cricketers have come under sharp criticism from former players who called for coach Duncan Fletcher's immediate ouster while questioning Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy in the Test series against England that culminated with an innings and 244 runs annihilation at the Oval.
The players were critical of Fletcher's role in the embarassing defeat, saying his contribution was "zero" and it was high time that he be replaced.
"What was Fletcher doing after we won the Lord's Test on a difficult pitch? This is where he lacked imagination in keeping the lead. Yes, I think Fletcher has to go," said former captain Ajit Wadekar.
India's woeful performances touched a new low as they succumbed to their heaviest Test defeat in 40 years in a match that got over well inside three days, gifting away the series to England 3-1.
Regarding Dhoni, Wadekar said, "He changed his technique and batted well. But why he did not change his tactics as captain foxes me. For example not keeping a third man where half the runs were scored. Also in team selection, (Ravichandran) Ashwin should have played from the first Test. Wonder why he did not."
Former batting great Gundappa Viswanath felt Dhoni often hopes for a miracle to bail his team out of difficult situations.
"I'm not happy with his keeping and captaincy, he's got his own mind. He always keeps repeating that. He always expects a miracle. Miracles cannot happen all the time. It happens once in a blue moon," Viswanath told PTI.
Ex-spinner Erapalli Prassana said, "I am categorically saying that Fletcher's contribution to the team was a big zero."
Another former captain Kris Srikkanth too felt the same about the under-fire coach.
"Fletcher has not contributed anything for the team."
Former middle-order batsman Chandu Borde, who led India in one Test, criticised the technique of the current lot.
"I am surprised these youngsters did not change their technique which a player like (Alastair) Cook did after England's defeat at Lord's by standing a few feet outside the crease to counter Bhuvaneshwar Kumar's swing bowling.
"What can a player do if you don't implement what is told to you. He cannot bat for you. Their confidence got low as the series progressed, bogged down by failures."
Former player Anshuman Gaekwad too, was critical of Fletcher.
"I've been a coach in the past and a coach must look into this and rectify. I don't know what's wrong. If the coach is telling them it's not working, then probably the boys are not listening. If that is the case, then what's the point of having a coach there?
"You can take a horse to the water but cannot make him drink. Ultimately the players have to perform. I agree he has to be blamed but batsmen are to be blamed equally for the series," Gaekwad said.
Ashok Malhotra felt Dhini's shelf life as Test captain has expired.
"He's wonderful in shorter formats of ODI and T20s but there's a lot to be desired as far as Tests are concerned. He doesn't have a Plan A, B or C in place. He's very close minded as far as Test cricket is concerned. Ganguly definitely was much better, he enjoyed Test captaincy, he took pride in his performance."
Malhotra said Fletcher had enough as coach of the Indian team.
"I don't think he's good as a coach whatever the Indian player might say. He does not say anything, he does not speak to the media. The records speak for himself. We should have looked beyond him after we lost eight consecutive matches overseas to England and Australia.
"He survived thanks to Dhoni and other senior members but it's time for him to make a statement. He's so technically savvy, he should have improved the likes of Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara and Gautam Gambhir. But he did not do much.
Ex-opener W V Raman said, "Dhoni as a batsman did not put a foot wrong. Okay, he might have made couple of strange choices as far as the final eleven is concerned. What you expect of Dhoni when the batsmen fail to fire and so many chances are put down. Dhoni cannot do anything under such circumstances."
Wadekar though felt that there is no replacement for Dhoni at the moment.
"I will retain Dhoni as captain for Tests as I don't see anyone who can take over at the moment. (Virat) Kohli's confidence has been dented severely. He should be allowed to regain his confidence in a few home rubbers and then made captain for Tests while Dhoni can be retained as captain for ODI and T20 formats in which he's good.
"But as wicket keeper he should stop innovating like he did – standing three feet behind to spin bowlers. His leg side keeping is very good, even while diving. But he fumbles on the off side."
Srikkanth said the Indian cricketers lacked the willingness to fight it out.
"It's highly disappointing. I do not think the players were inexperienced as people have been commenting. We have seven eight players who have lost of experience. I think it is lack of willingness to fight and required determination was missing in them."
Vishwanath said the players did not show character.
"The whole Indian team is collapsing. It's the same group of cricketers who did well. If you talk about us we came back winning (Lord's, June, 1986) after collapsing for 42 (Lord's, June, 1974) but these people did not show any character to bounce back.
"They just vanished which is an understatement. It cannot happen like this. They're losing matches after matches inside three days. They have stunned the Indian cricket. Having brought glory, we know what Indian cricket is all about. I'm really worried about the Indian cricket team," Vishwanath said.
As far as Fletcher was concerned, he said, "We have to forget about the foreign coach. If we're not doing well in foreign countries then what's the point in keeping a foreign coach?
"Our boys are good enough but we have to do minor adjustments in technique. I don't know what's the coach is doing. He keeps only mum."
"It's not that he's here for nothing. The board is paying and he's getting his pay cheque every month and he's happy. We don't want that kind of happiness. He should perform what he's supposed to do. But we're being vanquished in similar manner, series after series."
Vishwanath said the time hasn't come yet to remove Dhoni from captaincy.
"We cannot remove MS now, he's the right and experienced man to lead up front. If not MS then who will captain the side? Virat cannot lead now."
Borde pointed out Indian batsmen's lack of footwork in seaming conditions and against a good attack.
"Their footwork was lacking to counter the swing. They largely tried to play from the crease. The body language was also down with repeated failures. I was surprised by Moeen Ali taking so many wickets. How did he get 19 wickets against Indians who are good at playing spin as they are reared on spinning tracks. It was shocking."
Prasanna called the debacle a disappointing sight.
"It is sad to witness and experience a debacle like this. I was also involved in the 42-all out tour. Nevertheless, we got back and created a tremendous impact on people in the cricketing world. But after having had that sort of a reputation, a debacle like this presently is highly disappointing and is an unfortunate sight."
Raman said the Indian team lacked instinct.
"I think the side lacked the instinct and were put off by the opposition attack without realising that they could come back in to the game. You must have a healthy respect for the opponent but you should back yourself at the same time. What had perhaps happened was the balance in mental issue could have been bit better and were too worried about as to how they are going to handle the opposition attack.
"If you look at our boys, they have the abilities but obviously they lacked self confidence. By and large, their batting lapses once again affected their minds on the field too. That was the reason that so many catches were dropped," Raman said.
Malhotra, too, was scathing in his criticism.
The way they have played I think they have embarrassed themselves. I think by means of only only foreign tours we can improve our standard. We have to bring in more and more young Indian players who're knocking at the doors. This young brigade has not been able to do much.
"The way forward I see is by means of conducting more India A away tours. Maybe some players should play only Test and county cricket."