Does the current Indian Test Team deserve criticism or support?
Winless in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, 3-1 loss in England, the rain-affected match in Bangladesh, and the loss against Sri Lanka in the first Test at Galle. India has hardly tasted victory in Test matches in the recent times. As a matter of fact, India last won a Test match back in July 2014 against England at Lord’s which was the only victory in the year 2014.
This can also be attributed to the fact that India has mostly played Test overseas, last home Test match was against West Indies in November 2013 which was the farewell series for Sachin Tendulkar.
For a strong International side like India, this is a cause of concern. And the players have indeed received huge criticism from all quarters of the cricket. But we really need to re-think whether the team needs criticism or support. The truth is that the team is still going through the transition phase. So what has changed? The legends have retired, the captain cool has stepped down, the new captain needs time to get his acts together, the whole team is inexperienced in the Test Arena, there is no coach.
The Indian side was once blessed with stalwarts like Sachin, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Anil Kimble, Virender Sehwag and on and on. With a coach like Gary Kirsten, this star bunch of players took the Indian Test cricket to new heights.
We had Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir giving the solid starts with Sehwag more often than scoring at the rate of knots which ensured India had good beginnings. Then we had The Wall, Rahul walking in at No. 3 who could stay at the crease for as long as you wanted him to.
Sachin at No. 4, with the expectations of big scores every innings which he answered with 51 centuries along with Saurav who brought the aggression in the side. Then walked in the saviour of the 4th innings, VVS, who could bat even with the tail.
MS Dhoni did the finishing part with his big hitting. If the batsmen couldn’t deliver, we had the bowlers to back them up. Zaheer with his mastery in swing bowling both with new and old ball, Anil with the persistence to ball all day and claim handful of wickets, Harbhajan with his bag of tricks, all of them combined to take 20 wickets not just in India but overseas too.
What do we have now? Openers Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay and KLRahul, all have done well in recent times, but they all have their troubles either with swing or spin.
No. 3 slot which once had the Mr. Dependable is struggling now to find a permanent member at the position. Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit, Rahane all have been tried, but no one has been consistent.
Virat Kohli at 4 has done a terrific job in the recent times and so has Rahane batting at No. 5. Wriddhiman Saha is relatively new and yet to cement his place.
We no longer have someone who can bat with the tail and win the match like VVS used to do. In the bowling department, Ravichandran Ashwin has started to bowl the way he should in Tests by being the proper off break bowler. Second spinner’s slot is not fixed. Fast bowlers are changed in every match. So the team is struggling to find the right combinations.
Despite this, Indian team deserves a lot of applauds for the way they have fought in all the away tours. The results absolutely do not reflect what the team actually did. In all the tours, we were in the position to win the match more than once.
Starting with Auckland, we bowled New Zealand out for 105 in the second innings and fell just 40 runs short chasing 406. We could have won in Wellington by an innings if only Ishant Sharma had caught Brendon McCullum early, but it was the true masterclass from Kiwi skipper which forced the draw.
We won at Lord’s which was a famous victory with Ishant picking up wickets with short balls; indeed a spell to remember. Though we lost the remaining matches in England, but the Lord’s victory proved that the team has the potential to win overseas.
In Australia, we could have won the Adelaide Test chasing 363 if the late collapse hadn’t happened. We got the lead in Brisbane and it was yet another collapse in the second innings that cost India the match.
The first Test at Galle, we let the match slip away with Chandimal scoring a brilliant hundred and then yet another batting collapse. So overall, we were in winning positions in almost all the tours, but every time, a collapse, a bad session or a drop catch has taken the victory away from Indians. This is the actual story of all the tours and not what the statistics suggest. But unfortunately, the result is what goes in the record books.
So, we cricket fans should re-affirm our faith in the players, who in due course of time will realise their potential and get back to winning ways.