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Problems of being the best

Going by stats and a ranking system, India are the top ranked Test team. Under Dhoni, our recent record is great and wins against Australia and South Africa prove we have what it takes to be the best. Amrit Mathur reports.

cricket Updated: Jan 06, 2011 01:17 IST
Amrit Mathur

Going by stats and a ranking system, India are the top ranked Test team. Under Dhoni, our recent record is great and wins against Australia and South Africa prove we have what it takes to be the best.

Yet, doubts remain about how good the team really is. India's away record is modest - just 36 wins in 78 years of Test cricket - and observers still rate us as a one-dimesdional team, which is strong only at home. Not just that, what's worrying is India is not a dominating team or a clear leader.

In the past, when West Indies and Australia occupied the top spot, they were miles ahead of others. India are far from this; we just about get past the line and squeeze ahead instead of smashing other teams.

In contrast, Australia and the West Indies were teams that led convincingly from the front and were one lap ahead at the finish.

India have other concerns to address, and as Michael Vaughan pointed out, age is one big issue. India's top five Test stars are past 30 and while all of them are currently in splendid touch, age has a way of catching you unawares.

But, for us, the decline of trusted seniors could pose a bigger problem given the star players are not known for prime fitness or top fielding standards. So, when form drops as it will beyond a certain age, the core of the team could suddenly come apart leaving a massive hole.

Such a situation becomes scary because India are searching for quality bench strength. With seniors gone, will Gautam Gambhir lead the batting, play hundred Tests and score 25 hundreds? Do we have players who can cope with pace that demands strong back-foot technique, and a willingness to hang in and build an innings instead of swinging the bat at everything hurled at them.

Yuvraj was an awesome talent who missed out on a respectable Test career, now it is for Suresh Raina to ensure he does not go down that path.

Finding the right bowling replacements is another issue. And while there are many untested pace options (from Jaydev Unadkat to Umesh Yadav) we are waiting for the next big star to take over from Zaheer Khan.