England’s swift surrender on an excruciatingly slow but viciously spinning track against Bangladesh, holds promise of an Indian dominance against them in the Test series that begins this month.
India’s taming of New Zealand in the just concluded series was no surprise. Teams with better experience, skill and talent have found India almost impossible to conquer and have succumbed to a combination of the spinning ball, crowd pressure and a bunch of players who can transcend their limitations when playing at home in conditions tailor-made for them.
In recent memory, England is the only team that came here in 2012 and despite losing the first Test, struck back to leave India literally shell-shocked.
The question will or can Alastair Cook’s team recreate that miraculous performance this time around as well, is an interesting one. It is a long series (five Test matches to be played) and cricket fans, no matter which side they support, would want a keen contest, as one-sided matches do no good to any sport, especially to a format which is battling for survival.
However, the purpose of this column is not to get into an in-depth study of strengths and weaknesses of the England team and how the two teams match up. Suffice to say that there should be no doubt that India are the better team while playing at home, hence favourites to win the series.
What has been impressive about this team so far, especially after Anil Kumble took over as coach, is the planning that is going into developing a team with a strong bench strength.
India has rarely experimented with its playing XI, not resting its key players to let young, raw talent find their feet in international cricket.
This is something that does not come naturally to us, as our selectors and captains have been very conservative and even insecure when it comes to exposing newcomers to the rough and tumble of world cricket.
India passed on a bold message of having faith in their bench strength by resting Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja from the one-day series against New Zealand. It was a move that may have come as a surprise, but was in sync with the philosophy that Kumble propagated when he took over as the team coach.
He had, in the camp for the Indian team prior to India’s departure to the West Indies, underlined the significance of identifying a pool of players who could be handy replacements in time of need.
It is obvious now that by rotating its fast bowlers and now even spinners, India is trying to build a pool of players so that the breakdown of a couple of them won’t cripple the team.
These are positive signs that the team is thinking of not just immediate results but has a long-term future in mind.
Winning at home is important but if India has to be counted as a force in international cricket, it has to start competing outside as well. The sad truth may be that no team plays well away from home and Test cricket is increasingly becoming predictable and boring because of this “impregnability” of home advantage.
It is not a time to start believing that destiny plays a role in routing a team at home and getting routed in turn away from home. This is a cycle more man-made than god-willed and if Test cricket has to survive, this chain has to be broken.