Indian cricket team’s invincibility on familiar turf makes for ‘boring’ contests
Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team has completely dominated at home, rising to No 1 in ODIs and Tests. The Indian skipper had urged his players to be ‘boring’ – as in ruthless – but Australia, England, New Zealand, and even Sri Lanka on their turf, have failed to rise to the challenge, making it truly lopsided affairs.india vs australia 2017 Updated: Oct 02, 2017 21:07 IST
Indian cricket is passing through a golden phase. Out of the last 14 Tests at home, the national team has won 11, losing just one. Out of 13 ODIs, they have won nine. Virat Kohli’s side are ranked No 1 in Tests and ODIs. They have beaten England, Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh at home in the last year, after defeating South Africa. In ODIs, India have beaten New Zealand, England, West Indies and now Australia, all at home.
The stats not only underline India’s dominance, but highlight Virat Kohli’s call before the start of the home run in October, 2016.
Before the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur, Kohli emphasized what was required to be a champion side. “(We need to be) doing boring things. At this level, you need to be very boring in your training, in your practice if you want to succeed,” he had said, demanding there should be no let-up.
The performances by India from the Kanpur Test against the Kiwis till the Nagpur ODI on Sunday have stuck to Kohli’s template, reducing matches to mostly one-sided affairs with little to show in terms of competition.
This dominance though is likely to continue due to various factors.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja took 21 and 25 wickets respectively in the 2-1 Test series win over Australia in early 2017. For the ODIs, they were rested. India brought in Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, both wrist-spinners, and one a Chinaman bowler.
Kuldeep took a hat-trick in the Kolkata ODI against Australia while Chahal claimed six wickets from four matches. The combined haul of 13 wickets from the two spinners made the difference as India won the series 4-1.
Even in the pace department, the accuracy and skill of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah in the series led to Australia skipper Steve Smith labelling them “the best death bowlers in the world currently”.
The performances of Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, Kuldeep and Chahal have underlined India’s bowling depth, be it pace or spin, although the inability of teams to counter have made it woefully one-sided affairs.
Batting the key
Ajinkya Rahane smashed four consecutive fifties against Australia, ensuring Shikhar Dhawan’s absence was not felt. All-rounder Hardik Pandya’s maturity and flexibility with the batting slot proved the X-factor. Pandya’s 83 batting at No 7 in Chennai and 78 coming in at No 4 in Indore highlighted his worth for the team.
With Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni forming the core, the exploits of Rahane and Pandya, in addition to solid contributions from Kedar Jadhav (with bat and ball) and Manish Pandey make this line-up powerful.
However, New Zealand, England, South Africa and Australia have not played spin well. Teams coming to India have been clueless against Ashwin, Jadeja, Kuldeep and Chahal. Since October 2016, Ashwin and Jadeja are the leading wicket-takers with 85 and 74 wickets respectively.
In post-match press conferences, visiting captains have repeatedly bemoaned the inability to play spin. Steve Smith sounded helpless after the ODI series.
“A lot of our players have played a lot of cricket in India (IPL), can’t use (lack of familiarity) as an excuse.” The opposition’s inability to tackle spin, as well as the death bowling by Bhuvneshwar and Jasprit Bumrah, has stood out in India’s dominance at home.
India’s near total domination at home – they are due to face Australia in a T20 series before taking on New Zealand and Sri Lanka – leaves them facing another big challenge.
This domination will have to be carried into their overseas assignments starting in early 2018. India are due to tour South Africa in January, England for five Tests in July and Australia towards the end of the year to play four Tests.
In the 1990s, India were dubbed tigers at home and lambs abroad. Cricket currently has no single favourite – unlike when West Indies and Australia ruled – and teams mostly dominate at home.
However, with the level of skill and depth they possess, and the quality of pace attack to go with their traditional batting might, India can hope to reverse this trend once the current phase of ‘boring’ home contests is done.