PARTAB RAMCHAND | 5 DECEMBER, 2019
Indian Cricket Has Never Had It So Good
There is just no stopping the Indian juggernaut and it is clear that Indian cricket is in the midst of a phenomenally successful era 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 in 2009.
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 who figure prominently in the ICC rankings 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 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 two world records - twelve successive home series victories with the wins over South Africa and Bangladesh and being the first team in cricket history to notch up four successive innings victories.
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. 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 Cheteswar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane not being far behind. If anything it has now become really formidable with Rohit Sharma consolidating his position at the top of the order and Mayank Agarwal a pillar of strength in the middle order. The result is that Hanuma Vihari for sometime considered a certainty in the middle order has to be in the reserves.
Batting has been Indian cricket’s traditional strength but for once the bowling is perhaps even stronger. 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 the main reason why Indian cricket is enjoying a golden run. 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. This attack is not only the best that India have ever had – by a distance – but also one of the best that any captain has had the privilege of leading.
Yes, it is the balanced bowling attack that has given the Indian team an edge over all other teams. In the past India have been traditionally been known as a batting and spin powerhouse. The presence of a solid pace attack has made India competitive overseas and has given them opportunities to consistently notch up wins when playing away from home. In home conditions India have always been tough to beat but armed with this bowling attack they have become almost unbeatable.
The bench strength too is very encouraging with a number of gifted youngsters waiting in the wings. The selectors have given them the opportunity to display their talent in the shorter versions of the game. This is how Kuldeep and Chahal were discovered and much more will undoubtedly be heard of in future of cricketers like Shubman Gill, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Navdeep Saini and Deepak Chahar.
In this healthy scenario Kohli like his two predecessors before him is all poised to take Indian cricket to new heights. In fact there is already talk of this Indian side having the potential of being ranked alongside some of the greatest teams in cricketing history. This is a moot point but that it is the finest in Indian cricket history there can never be any doubt.