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Indian cricket team must not celebrate too soon as tough road lies ahead

Though the Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team has won eight consecutive series, a difficult path lies ahead as away tours await the Ravi Shastri-coached squad.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 08, 2017 13:29 IST
Sidharth Gulati
The Indian cricket team has earned eight back-to-back series wins.
The Indian cricket team has earned eight back-to-back series wins.(Reuters)

After India sealed the series against Sri Lanka in Colombo, Virat Kohli – yet to lose a series as a full-time Test captain – expressed the team is no longer bothered about playing at home or away and have their focus only on winning.

Surely, eight consecutive series victories in two years backs his statement.

But since the 2014-15 Border-Gavaskar Trophy Down Under, India have played Tests mostly at home, except the Sri Lanka tour in 2015, West Indies series in 2016 and the ongoing three-Test series against Dinesh Chandimal’s men.

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FTP Blunder

After this, the BCCI will go on to host Australia and New Zealand for a limited-overs series and Sri Lanka (again) for a full-fledged series before the team departs for South Africa for four Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is, slated to start in January 2018.

Later that year, Kohli’s men will face the England and Australia challenge away. Months before the 2019 World Cup, they’ll travel to New Zealand, where they failed to win a single match last time around in 2014.

For a moment, if the home series against Sri Lanka is taken into consideration, “tiring sameness” seem to be the only two words that are likely to cross one’s mind.

Same was the case in 2011. Shortly after the Indian Premier League (IPL), India toured the Caribbean for three Tests, five ODIs and a one-off T20I.

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In a space of four months, Darren Sammy’s side arrived in India for a full-series. Now here, the Future Tours Programme (FTP) seems to be a “disaster” because it puts no cap on the amount of bilateral cricket that can be scheduled.

The individual boards, including BCCI, can’t be stopped from arranging ‘extra’ series.

It’s an overkill for the public. But it gives a team ample scope to be at the top while playing against teams, especially Sri Lanka and West Indies, who are currently experiencing a sad decline.

Manjrekar strikes

Soon after Kohli became the only Indian captain to register two series wins in Sri Lanka, Sanjay Manjrekar – cricketer turned commentator – made a statement which is thought-provoking.

Citing the example of one of the best Pakistan teams of all time, led by Imran Khan, Manjrekar wants Kohli to emulate Imran and urge the BCCI for “tougher challenges”.

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The side led by Imran in the 1980s pushed the best Test team in the world West Indies to the limit. In only his second Test as skipper, Imran led Pakistan to their first ever victory on English soil since 1954.

Five years later, he led Pakistan to their first-ever Test series win against India (in India) followed by their first series victory in England.

During the 1980s, Imran’s team also recorded three praiseworthy draws against the West Indies. And their 1992 World Cup triumph, held in Australia and New Zealand, was nothing less than an inspiration.

Out of 48 matches as captain, Imran Khan won 14, lost 8 and the rest were drawn. It’s evident that statistically, he wasn’t the best Pakistani captain but he is remembered because of the impact he had.

In case of Kohli, things are different. India have got off to a wonderful start under him, have become World No 1 but are yet to face a stiff challenge.

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His first ‘real’ overseas test is just a few months away but BCCI’s planning of this ‘over-excessive’ home season could again result in the same old story that started way back with the 0-4 defeat to England in 2011.

Kohli-led India should not celebrate too soon. While the drubbing of a listless Sri Lanka is not to be scoffed at, the days ahead will challenge the side more.