VEDANT SHARMA | 29 OCTOBER, 2019
India Under Kohli: The Greatest Test Side of All Time?
Their batting runs rampant at home
In the last few years, the Indian Test team has won every series in their backyard. Barring a tough challenge from Australia in 2017, they were able to outplay the opposition in home conditions backed by an army of diehard supporters.
When the captaincy was handed over to Virat Kohli back in the Australian tour, eyebrows were raised having known the skipper’s school of thought. But years down the line, when India hopelessly thrashed South Africa in the three-match Test series, they had won 11 series in a row at home, which will itself be scripted in the book of records.
The unstoppable eleven were once again able to prove their worth on the biggest of stages. It was a moment that once again proved the power of togetherness which surpasses individualism. With contributions coming from every Indian cricketer, the performance deserved to be termed an all-round effort.
The show, which was earlier run by the Dravids, Kohlis, Ashwins and Tendulkars, had suddenly made a paradigm shift. A team that used to rely on a couple of bowlers suddenly saw effective bowlers sitting in the dugout because of healthy competition within the ranks.
India is currently blessed with a golden generation of quicks, who can utilise menacing reverse swing when the ball is old. Indian tracks are not pace havens but quicks who can make the old ball talk have enjoyed much success on these tracks usually deemed graveyards for pacemen.
Even without injured star pacer Jasprit Bumrah – who remarkably has never played a Test at home – India had enough class to outmatch even South Africa’s brilliant attack headed by pace sensation Kagiso Rabada, who has been less effective on the flatter Indian pitches, evident right from the days of his Indian Premier League career.
And then there is India’s batting which runs rampant at home. Kohli is brilliant everywhere – as all-timers should be – but he is even more dangerous when coming in with a big platform laid. That’s usually the case in India, unlike in places like England, South Africa and Australia. And once again Kohli showcased his dominance with a masterclass career-best 254 not out to destroy the Proteas.
The real revelation was newborn opener Rohit Sharma, who in the first Test became the first batsman to score hundreds in each innings in his maiden Test as an opener. Of course, the burly batsman is one of the greats in ODI cricket where he continually eviscerates opponents with a bevvy of attacking shots all around the wicket. Few can stop him when the pitch is flat and the ball is not moving – characteristics that define limited-overs cricket.
In Test cricket, where there is usually a far more competitive balance between bat and ball, Sharma has been less successful in the middle order, unsure whether to play himself in or counterattack. He was seemingly unable to come to grips with the tempo of Test cricket, of when to attack and when to play the bowling out. He was often dismissed to brainless shots, so ham-fisted that you wondered if he’d ever crack the Test code.
And now maybe he has, after such a brilliant opening Test performance. Some batsmen are just more comfortable opening. They don’t like waiting around for their turn, they feel more nervous amid the anticipation. Maybe Sharma is like that.
If he can continue to find the right balance between watchfulness and attack, the 32-year-old has the rare ability to play enforcer at the top, a role Steve Smith so memorably mastered for Australia. Sharma certainly has the firepower to flatten attacks and leave them feeling dejected by the time Kohli enters.
The way season after season is panning out for Indian team, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Kohli’s men are well on the path to being designated the greatest of all time. The West Indies era in the 1970s is still remembered and acknowledged by cricket fanatics around the globe. Australia’s era under the captaincy baton of Ricky Ponting is also well remembered.
India are on the same page now, and will be looking to emulate their home performance in away tours. If they can do that, they will certainly be termed as one of the most dangerous sides of all time.
Will they be able to achieve that feat? Only time can tell. Till then, it’s time to relish the purest form of the game.