The current Indian Test team will go down in the annals of Indian cricket as one of the most competitive Test teams, who remains tough in any conditions. The ambitions of this team were pretty straightforward when Virat Kohli took over the captaincy of the team in 2014. The endeavour was to be the best travelling team in the world and with back-to-back wins on Australian soil, one can say that they are on the right track or some might even argue that the team has already accomplished its objective.
When Ravi Shashtri boasted in a press conference in England that this Indian team was the best one he had seen in recent years, people coined him as a clown. But these same people would struggle to argue against it after India’s greatest ever series win in its history at Australia recently.
The intent of this team became apparent when Virat Kohli became the stand-in captain against Australia at Adelaide in 2014. That match was conducted in an uncertain time given that it will always be remembered as the Test in the memory of the late Phillip Hughes. Still, the quality of cricket and the way Virat wanted to lead the Indian Test team was out there for the world to see. Chasing 363 on the last day of the Test, against all the expectations, India actually went all guns blazing for that run chase. It all started with Murali Vijay’s partnership with Virat and the duo put together a 185 run stand. Virat’s 141 on a difficult Day 5 wicket at Adelaide was one of the best innings played by an Indian in Australia. The team eventually fell 48 runs short in their run chase and was ridiculed as immature in their approach by many. That team’s imprints were all over the current one when India managed to successfully chase down 328 runs on the last day at the Gabba to lift the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Here we look at why this Indian Test team could be the best travelling team in the world.
BEST WIN/LOSS RATIO IN OVERSEAS CONDITIONS
Since the start of 2016, India have played 27 matches in overseas conditions. In those 27 matches, the team has been on the right end of the result 13 times, more than any other team in the world. The win/loss ratio since 2016 has been 1.3 for this current Indian team which is by far the best in the world. No other team has a win/loss ratio above 1 in the past five years. They are also the only team to have wins in double figures and interestingly have managed to draw only on four occasions. That gives you an indication of the mindset with which this team plays under the current management.
BOWLING UNIT FOR ALL CONDITIONS
A lot has been said about the improvement of the bowling department of this current Indian Test team. There’s no doubt that bowlers are the one which wins you Test matches and if your team doesn’t have the ability to take 20 wickets in a match then you’d struggle to win overseas. Virat Kohli made it crystal clear when he took over that the emphasis will be on the bowlers in this team and they’d be the one who’d call the shots in these crucial overseas tours. A lot of credit also needs to be given the backroom staff, which includes the likes of Bharat Arun and Ravi Shashtri. Arun is the unsung hero of this story and in his reign as the bowling coach the Indian team has the best bowling figures when it comes to playing overseas.
In the past five years, this Indian bowling line-up averages 26.12 with the ball and leads the way when it comes to this stat in overseas conditions. The next best would be the Australian bowling attack with 29.30 which is hailed as the best going around the world by many. The other regular Test nations average above 30. When it comes to run rate per over then this Indian team is second on the list just behind New Zealand with 3.06. This tells us that they are deadly accurate and give no easy balls to hit to the opposition. When it comes to wickets taken in the past five years, the Indian bowling line up tops the charts with 461 scalps to their name even though both England and Sri Lanka have played more matches than them.
SURREAL SQUAD DEPTH
The squad depth of this Indian Test team had its litmus test during the recently-concluded Border-Gavaskar Trophy. It almost felt like all the fit and available players played in the four-Test matches. The way the team handled this injury crisis was exceptional and it sent shock waves across the cricketing fraternity that this Indian Test team were able to win matches even without its star players. Cricketing talent in the country has never been questioned and this series was a pure case of talent meeting opportunities. For players like Washington Sundar and T Natarajan getting a game for the Tamil Nadu team in the Ranji trophy seemed difficult at one point and here they were scripting history at the Gabba against a full-strength Australian team. The talent pool available to the selectors is unreal and it’ll be interesting to see how efficiently they use these resources in the coming few tours.
The other beauty of this team is that Test cricket is valued as the pinnacle of the sport by the administration. There are Test specialists in the squad like Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari and Ishant Sharma. These players don’t get an opportunity to don the Indian blue throughout the year and when these Test series come along they are mentally as well as physically prepared for a challenging tour. They actually relish this role they have in the current Indian set up and seem to be enjoying their time on the field.
This Indian Test team has all the ingredients of achieving success in any given conditions. It’s just the constant chopping and changing of players that need to be looked at. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if India goes on to dominate Test cricket in the coming decade or so.
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