A disgrace. A humiliating stain on the nation. Something to make even the most ardent fan turn away in sheer disgust.
But, enough about Ishant Sharma's facial hair.
Where to start with India's Test performances in the past few months? They have been so abject in all three disciplines, that any dissection of where they went wrong would be an exercise in futility.
In the field, VVS Laxman has been more disinterested than a straight man forced to endure a Rom-Com marathon. In fact, when Wriddhiman Saha dropped a [tough] catch at Adelaide, and poor VVS had to jog about 20 metres in order to retrieve the ball, he let out an ostensible sigh before feebly giving chase. That drop of the head, that "Oh-can't-someone-else-do-it?" whine, the sheer listnessness, were all indicative of India's woes.
To his credit, VVS did give chase, eventually picking up the ball some minutes later. He proceeded to amble towards the target - now long since stationary - with all the zeal of a 90-year old woman with a crumbling hip. He under-armed it back to Saha - on the bounce - and returned to daydreaming of his Hyderabad compound, watching TV and being fanned by an industrial-strength AC system, clad in wife-beater and boxers.
Test cricket has never demanded Herculean levels of fitness, but most of India's players are openly disdainful of training. In stark contrast, Australia's two oldest players, Hussey and Ponting, who are supreme fielders - partly due to natural talent, mostly due to hard graft - are constantly seen spending hours going through painstaking fielding drills. The gulf in effort, in desire, has never been greater between two Test teams.
The Australians did not require perfection, but they demanded precision. John Inverarity's fresh approach has clearly won the confidence of the squad - though after the staleness of the Hilditch-era, the next man in would always look clued-up. Before this series, the only man in Australia who saw perfection in Michael Clarke was Mark Nicholas. For the first time, Clarke now has the confidence of an entire country behind him, and he has certainly earned it.
In the media, India have been getting an easy ride - perhaps fans would lose interest if they weren't humoured with the possibility of light at the end of the tunnel, and the possibility that Tendulkar might play on for another three World Cups and 17 IPL tournaments.
For India to lose eight Tests in a row is some achievement in itself, but to be thrashed so consistently is what is alarming.
If you're an India fan, look away now...here are the margins of defeat:
- 196 runs at Lord's
- 319 runs at Trent Bridge
- innings & 242 runs at Edgbaston
- innings & 8 runs at The Oval
- 122 runs at Melbourne
- innings & 68 runs at Sydney
- innings & 37 runs at Perth
- 298 runs at Adelaide.
As a neutral watching India, one felt the acute tinges of sympathy we've come to associate with watching Bangladesh and Zimbabwe over the years: "Someone, please, put them out of their misery."
However, any soft feelings for India have been short-lived. More often than not, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe play their hearts out, and certainly the latter cannot be faulted for effort and enthusiasm. Even as a fan of most of the Indian players - as the majority of people are - it's hard to get behind the same notion of 'Team India' that was sold to us to fervently when Dhoni heralded a bold new era in 2007. Not least, when they see fit to abuse fans...
Somewhere in India, a village is missing its idiot. If you had needed convincing of Ishant Sharma's stupidity, he allayed any fears of intelligence by sticking his middle finger up at a female Australian fan, just two days after Kohli was reprimanded and fined for doing the same thing.
The horrible, obscene provocation that Ishant took offence to? "Hey, why are you going go-karting, you're about to lose 4-0! You should be practicing!"
With five wickets at 92.8 in the series, Ishant was an embarrassment in more ways than one. This was compounded when he had the audacity to put his figures down to "bad luck." Yes, he had a few edges flying just wide of slip, which may have improved his average to a far more respectable, Ajit Agarkar-esque number in the mid-70s, but such is cricket. It's the very nature of sport itself: you earn your luck.
Blaming poor performances on misfortune is symptomatic of the Indian team's lazy, nonplussed attitude.
Virender Sehwag's 'riposte' was equally pathetic: "We beat them 2-0 in India," he said.
Yes, Viru, you did. And that's part of the problem - you're a shadow of the team that achieved so much, not too long ago, and you seem to believe that any failings can immediately be purged by reminding us of a 50 you scored against Papua New Guinea U19′s in 1997.
Head Coach Duncan Fletcher has contempt for most of the press, an attitude that has permeated through the ranks. Since Gary Kirsten's departure after the World Cup, India have acquired a myopic dinosaur, masquerading under the facade of experience breeding stability. Players seemed to enjoy playing under the Dhoni-Kirsten axis, but all enthusiasm has been sapped out of a team full of players who historically, have been happy to coast along, so long as they have their place in the team.
Fletcher must go. As predicted last year, his renowned stubbornness has proven to be at odds with India's culture, and he embodies the staleness that has enveloped this side. India need a younger man, in the mould of Kirsten and Andy Flower, who can once again trigger India's latent winning mentality.
Any Indian coach will invariably have too many conflicts of interest to even be considered, and so another foreign coach is a must. Coaches seem thin on the ground, and unless the BCCI manage to poach Flower, options would be limited to taking a foreign coach with IPL experience - for example, Greg Shipperd, of Victoria and Delhi Daredevils, but more likely, Stephen Fleming of the Chennai Super Kings.
Dhoni has been taking plenty of flak, and deservedly so. Tactically, Dhoni has always been poor - I still maintain that Joginder Sharma bowling the final over of the T20 World Cup Final in 2007 was the worst captaincy faux-pas in history - but previously he has been able to cover up this gaping liability with his exceptional leadership skills
There has been talk of dropping Dhoni, who has not-so-cryptically mentioned that he will not be around in Tests much longer. Dare I say, he might choose to retire from the format before India's next Test series outside the subcontinent, in November 2013, against South Africa. Axing Dhoni would be counter-productive, especially with no ready-made replacement.
The sensitivity of the imminent departures of Tendulkar, Laxman and Dravid should not be underestimated. It's as if an entire country is weighing up whether to pack its parents off to the nursing home.
India have a long road ahead of them, and they have three urgent points to address:
1. Sack Duncan Fletcher.
2. Bring in young blood, like Rahane and Pujara. Let them fail. Let them learn.
3. Send away Kohli and Ishant to the Indian equivalent of 'Ladette to Lady'.
Not only are India out of form, but they are evidently out of touch, detached from reality. Weaned on a diet of IPL excess and faux-celebrity, the spoiled younger generation of Indians have assumed the arrogant mentality of many of the footballers we decry so regularly.
The time has come for each Indian player to take a look at himself in the mirror. Sehwag's bald patch aside, they might not like what they see.
Follow Nishant Joshi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AltCricket