Virat Kohli’s team pulled a stunner at Chennai in the final test series against England and wrapped the series by a colossal margin of 4-0. Currently, the Indian side is on a roll. During the previous test series against New Zealand, India had already taken the summit place in the test ranking of ICC.
Virat Kohli has been rampant ever since he took over the Indian test series captaincy around two years ago. In such a short span, he is already the third most successful test captain of India with fourteen test victories. He is there jointly with Azharuddin, who in comparison to Kohli, captained India for more than eight years. India hasn’t lost even one test series in the last eighteen matches.
After clinching the series against England, Kohli declared that this was just the beginning and the team will scale new heights in 2017. Fraternity believes that this is a great test team in the making. Nevertheless, it can be stated that even at this moment, it is one among the finest Indian test squads of all times, or it may be the finest of all times.
So where does this team stand in comparison to the other great Indian test squads of the past? It would be quite an interesting thing to see.
GREAT INDIAN TEST SQUADs IN THE PAST
Though this discussion is highly subjective in nature, I believe that for our generation and perhaps for all times, three teams made it to the league of great Indian test squads. It was Kapil Dev’s team during 1985-87, Ganguly’s side during 2002-2004 and Dhoni’s side during 2009-2011. The current team recently set the record of remaining undefeated for 18 test matches and the previous record of 17 tests belonged to Kapil’s side of 1985-87. Kapil’s team was extremely experienced and undoubtedly, it had the best batting line-up among all test playing nations at that point in time. Legendary Gavaskar and Srikkanth were complementing each other beautifully at the top of the batting order. There were three top class middle order batsmen – MohinderAmarnath, Vengsarkar and Mohd. Azharuddin.KapilDev and Ravi Shastri were two top class all-rounders at number six and seven. The team’s achievements were well in sync with its stature. In the summer of 1986, India defeated England in England by a margin of 2-0 and both the victories were one-sided (the only instance till date when India won two test matches in a single series in England).The team dominated in all three tests in Australia during 1985-86. Though, the series ended in a draw but with a little luck, the score line could have been 2-0 or even 3-0 in India’s favour. It defeated Sri Lanka comprehensively by 2-0 in the home series. Kapil’s side remained unbeaten in the tests throughout the calendar year of 1986.
The spree finally came to an end with India’s defeat at Bangalore against Pakistan in March 1987, which incidentally was the last test of the great, Sunil Gavaskar. It was a hyper turning track and Pakistan’s spinners created havoc. India lost the match by a margin of just 16 runs. In the fourth innings of the match, which was the last test innings of Gavaskar’s career, Gavaskar played an epic knock of 96, however, India lost. Ganguly’s side of 2002-2004 was a turning point of Indian Cricket. It paved the path for the future. To start with, it was a home series win against ferocious Australia in March 2001. The team then won a test outside the sub-continent in 2002, in West Indies after 16 long years. The test victory in England during 1986 was the previous victory outside the sub-continent. It won a test in Australia in 2003-04 and almost pulled the test series down under which eventually ended in a draw. However, the highest point came in 2004 when the team created history by winning a test series in Pakistan, which is the only series victory of India in Pakistan till date. Ganguly was inspiring and aggressive as a captain. Like Kapil’s side of mid-eighties, it was also a great batting side. Tendulkar at number four was leading the middle order pack along with Rahul Dravid and Laxman. VirenderSehwag was destructive at the top order. Zaheer, Kumble and Harbhajan were the main strike bowlers. Dhoni’s side became the number one test side in ICC’s official ranking in 2010-11. Barring the addition of Dhoni, it was by and large the same side as Ganguly’s side in 2002-04. Under Dhoni, the team won the test series in New Zealand, West Indies. It won the home series against Australia, England & Sri Lanka. The team won a test in South Africa but they could not win the series. The team’s dream run, however, was badly scuttled by a 4-0 whitewash in England during the summer of 2011 and then another whitewash in Australia in 2011-12, which compelled both Dravid and Laxman to hang their boots.
WHERE DOES KOHLI’s TEAM STAND
Now let’s come to the current team. The team’s composition is quite perfect presently. It is headed by an aggressive captain who is a champion batsman as well. This is a young but extremely talented side. Murali Vijay at the top of the order is extremely resilient and so is Pujara at number three. Karun Nair and KL Rahul have spiced up the scenario with an amazing display at Chennai. A resurgent Parthiv Patel has given another batting option to the side. Ashwin is in a destructive form and Jadeja has also proved his all-round credentials beyond doubts. Presently on this side, tail can also contribute with bat, which actually is a very vital feature of a great test side. The way Karun gave impetus to Indian innings at Chennai with number seven and eight batsmen exemplifies that. JayantYadav is another new find along with Karun. In the 4th test at Mumbai, India was six down for 307 in reply to 400 of England but then the innings finished with a lead of 231 runs. Jayant scored a century at number nine. If India could defeat England by an innings in the last two test matches despite a 400 plus score by England in the first innings, then it was largely due to the batting efforts by the tail-enders. Another pertinent point is the team’s potent pace bowling. Notwithstanding the fact that there is scope of improvement.Umesh and Shami are genuine pace bowlers and have been very effective of late. On top of all this,Kohli’s aggressive and innovative leadership makes this side a real formidable one. The way Kohli kept the tempo high during the last day/session of the Chennai test is truly incredible. He is normally spot on with his on-field decisions and doesn’t shy away from taking risks in his pursuit for victory.
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Kapil(1986) and Sourav(2002-04) were essentially the batting sides whereas the current side strikes a better balance between batting and bowling. Another plus point with this side is that most of the players have a good 8-10 years of the spirit of Cricket left with them. In contrast to this, in Kapil’s and Dhoni’s side, most of the top performers were in the last phase of their career and this gives a huge advantage to the current side of Kohli. This set of players can continue to play together for years to come and thus, they have a huge opportunity to improvise further as a team. However, there is a flip side. This side is yet to go through the real grinding and there is lot to achieve. Kohli along with his team, so far won most of the test matches at home. The team won a series in West Indies but then the test side of West Indies is hardly a force to reckon with. Another overseas victory was in Sri Lanka, which was in the sub-continent itself. The real test for any test side is related to its performance in Australia, England & South Africa, and Kohli’s boys still have to go through this litmus test. In terms of the team composition and the way it is pitched right now, this team is even better composed with their predecessors in the past. Now, only time will tell how far they will go and admittedly the team conjures up huge promises for the future.
I would like to conclude this discussion with one admission. I have been following the game for the past 35 years. If this team tours South Africa and Australia for a test series, for the first time ever, I can take a chance to put my money on India and it sums up a verdict for this side quite perfectly.