10 characteristics of a champion team that India lack at present
India are the No 1 Test team in the World. Team India would continue to be the No 1 team irrespective of the results of the ongoing India-West Indies series and Australia-Pakistan series.
Before going into the complicated computations of the ICC ranking system, let us first examine whether the current Indian team deserves the No 1 Test ranking purely based on their performance in the middle. To relate more to the current Indian team, the performances of the last 5 years have been taken into account.
Our assessment is going to be simple in the sense that we are going to test the quality of the current Indian team with certain proven features of the number one Test teams of the past. The performances of the invincible West Indies teams of the 80s and the Australian teams of the 90s and their champion qualities have been taken as yardsticks to measure the performances of the current Indian team.
Characteristics of a Number one Test team
1. Decent overseas record
The first and foremost characteristic of a number one Test team is an even record all over the world, especially in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) countries. The Sri Lankan and Bangladesh wickets are similar to the Indian wickets. The wickets in the Carribean have slowed down a lot over a period of time, so has their standard of cricket. There is no fun in scoring bucket full of runs or claiming so many wickets on sub-continental wickets against deplorable opponents.
The real challenge for a No 1 ranked team like India is to win Test series in SENA countries. Let us first verify whether this team has done that.
a) India in South Africa in 2013
This was Jacques Kallis’s farewell series. In this series, India should have won the first Test at Johannesburg. India set South Africa a target of 458 to score in the fourth innings of the match. South Africa were on the mat at 197 for 4. Any other champion team would have forced the issue. But India allowed the game to drift.
Both Faf du Plessis and A.B. de Villiers scored centuries. What was more depressing was the manner in which both the batsmen scored runs quickly on a fifth-day pitch. Thankfully for India, both AB and Faf got out at the wrong time. In the end, South Africa were just 8 runs short with 3 wickets in hand when the umpires took off the bails.
The second Test was Jacques Kallis’ - the greatest all-rounder of this era - last Test match. South Africa thrashed India by 10 wickets to win the series 1-0. Kallis finished his career with a century.
b) India in New Zealand in 2014
New Zealand won the first Test by 40 runs. It was a close match in which India showed a lot of fighting qualities of a Champion team. However, in the end, they could not close things out and lost by a narrow margin of 40 runs. The second Test ended in a draw and New Zealand won the series 1-0.
c) India in England in 2014
India had the best start to this 5 Test series. India drew the first Test match and won the second Test and took a 1-0 lead. But they inexplicably lost the next three Tests. Finally, the series was won by England by a margin of 3-1.
d) India in Australia in 2014
Australia won this four-Test series 2-0. After losing the first two Test matches, India showed some fight to draw the next two Test matches. The first Test match in Adelaide was a close contest which India lost by 48 runs. Virat Kohli, captaining the Indian team for the first time, scored a hundred in both the innings of that Test match. At one point of time, India were 242 for 2 chasing a target of 364. But they never had the killer instinct to finish off the match.
e) India in South Africa in 2018
India lost the first two matches before coming back into the series with a win in the third Test at Johannesburg. But by that time the series was settled in South Africa’s favour.
f) India in England in 2018
After losing the first Test by a narrow margin of 31 runs, a lot was expected of India. But they surrendered to the conditions in the second Test at Lord’s. India made a comeback by winning the third Test. Thereafter, they lost focus and the series 4-1.
It is clear that India have won a couple of overseas Test matches here and there. But they were never in a position to win an overseas Test series in the last 5 years. Again, most of the overseas series were settled against India with one match to spare. In other words, the SENA countries have a strong hold over India on their home grounds.
It is nothing new for a team to lose an overseas Test series. But that is not at all expected from a Champion team.
So this Indian team falls short in the first and foremost test for a Champion side because of their poor overseas record.