PARTAB RAMCHAND | 20 OCTOBER, 2019
Indian Cricket in the Midst of a Phenomenally Successful Phase
The Indian team is ranked No 1 in Tests and No 2 in ODIs.
Indian cricket is in the midst of a new and even more phenomenally successful phase under Virat Kohli. Ever since the start of the new millennium first under Sourav Ganguly and then under MS Dhoni Indian cricket has climbed to unprecedented heights. The really memorable achievements have included winning the inaugural World T-20 tournament in 2007, winning the 2011 Fifty50 World Cup four years later, emerging victorious in the Champions Trophy in 2013 and rising to the No 1 ranking in Tests.
Other notable achievements have been winning away Tests on a more regular basis, winning Test series in England, West Indies (more than once), New Zealand and Pakistan and sharing rubbers in South Africa and Australia. Besides the country produced some of the world’s outstanding players who were rated very high if not at the pedestal in the ICC rankings.
Over the past two decades then Indian cricket has enjoyed phenomenal success and now as we are about to enter the third decade of the 21st century It seems ready to make another leap and achieve further laurels. The Indian team is ranked No 1 in Tests and No 2 in ODIs. They again have some of the world’s finest players and the results have been sensational the high point being the maiden series triumph in Australia in 2018-19, a feat that was achieved after 71 years.
India have also won two successive contests in Sri Lanka in 2015 and 2017 after failing to win a series in the island nation for 22 years. True, they have yet to win a series in South Africa but somehow one feels that this is round the corner. At home of course India is the master of all they survey having lost only one Test series in the last 15 years and recently setting up a world record of eleven successive home series victories with the win over South Africa.
It is never easy to maintain a successful run for very long. The greats retire, their replacements are not good enough and the side goes through a rough phase. In January 1984 Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh retired simultaneously and Australia suffered a slump. It was never going to be easy to cover up for the exits of such all time greats and the Aussies took a long time to recoup, in the meantime suffering one defeat after another.
It has been the same with the West Indies. Once the formidable teams under Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards broke up following the retirements of the greats the West Indies despite the brave efforts of Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh struggled. And since these players called it a day the slide has been even more pronounced and the West Indies are languishing near the bottom of the table in the ICC Test and ODI rankings.
Indian cricket has been more fortunate in that even after the legends have retired they have been able to maintain their supremacy thanks to the replacements being as good. The Indian team performed admirably in the first decade of the new millennium thanks to the presence of the most lustrous batting line-up in the contemporary game – The Fab Four consisting of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman which became the Fab Five with Virender Sehwag joining in. The spin twins Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh gloriously maintained the Indian spin bowling tradition while there was enough strength in the pace bowling spearheaded by the likes of Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan. In their own different ways Ganguly and Dhoni proved to be outstanding captains while presiding over Indian cricket’s most glorious era.
There was a sense of trepidation when one by one Ganguly, Kumble, Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar and Sehwag retired. But with more than adequate replacements around the Indian team has remained very strong. The middle order batting in particular has been outstanding with Kohli being the fulcrum and Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane not being far behind. Now following the arrival of Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal and the resurrection of Rohit Sharma at the top of the order the batting has a really formidable look. And for once the bowling is perhaps even stronger making sure that the Indian juggernaut just keeps on rolling. The spin bowling tradition has passed on from Kumble and Harbhajan to Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja with Kuleep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal doing a splendid job in the ODIs.
But it is the pace bowling that is perhaps the main reason why Indian cricket is enjoying a golden run. Gathering in strength over the years it is now at its peak. Indeed it is an embarrassment of riches to have a quintet of world class fast bowlers in Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav around.
The bench strength too is very encouraging with a number of talented youngsters waiting in the wings. And in this healthy scenario Kohli like his two predecessors before him is all poised to take Indian cricket to new heights.