India's tour of South Africa: The first step in the pursuit of greatness
Batsmen amongst runs – Check
Bowlers picking wickets- Check
Undefeated in last 7 series- Check
Number 1 test team in the world- ‘Check
Team India in the last year and a half has defeated Australia, New Zealand, and England at home. They have also gone on to decimate Sri Lanka both home and away. However, the next one year is what will really define this young Indian test team’s mettle for the next 4 to 5 years.
Virat Kohli and his men are soon to get underway on a long overseas Test season.Their first stop is a 3-match series against the Proteas in South Africa early next month. They would then be playing in Australia and England going further into 2018.
This journey promises to be gruelling but fascinating.
The upcoming series against South Africa wil be key in ascertaining how well the Indian team is equipped to perform outside the boundaries of their comfort zone. Overseas tours often provide an opportunity to transform good career graphs into special ones. Performances in alien conditions go on to reveal a cricketer’s real character and corroborate his true worth.
India has undoubtedly been at their pulverizing best. Barring a Test or two, the team has hardly faced any contest from any of their opponents during the long home season.
The batting lineup has got truckloads of runs and the bowlers have been sending the stumps on a roll with utmost ease. However, to be identified as the best Test team in the world, India has to win abroad.
Overseas Test victories are imperative for this team to go down as one of the best Indian sides and this team has the potential to do that. A series win in South Africa will give this young side the confidence to start believing that they are indeed a team that can overcome all sorts of challenges posed at them anywhere around the world.
Pitches in South Africa are quite different than what one gets in India. The ball does carry quicker to the keeper with the wickets offering a much more volatile bounce.
The Indian batsman will be aware of the fact that all the runs they have scored back home would count for very less when they take guard on the first day of the Test series.
There is no denying the fact that this India batting lineup does possess ample skills and the ability required to score runs on such sort of tracks. Although Indian batsmen more often than not have been able to put runs on the board, the issue with them not winning enough games lies elsewhere.
The key to winning overseas Test matches is the ability to take 20 wickets. The Indian side over the years has failed to do this. Even though there have been quite a few special individual performances, the bowling attack hasn’t been penetrative enough as a pack.
This is where things might shape up differently this time around. This Indian team boasts a very skilled bowling attack. In Umesh Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, and Test debutant Jasprit Bumrah, India have an attack that has raised the bar in recent times. This armory of bowlers holds the ability to make the ball talk on most pitches.
This might well be the first time India is walking into a series with a very strong and potent bench of pace bowlers. Bowlers who have the audacity to bend their backs and force the batsmen onto the backfoot.
It is true that the responsibility of leading the bowling attack on foreign tours would lie more on the shoulders of the quick bowlers, but it might be the spinners who prove to be the x-factor.
We might not get to see as many five and ten-wicket halls from R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as we are used to seeing. However, if they are successful in breaking partnerships at crucial moments during the game, iwould go a long way in enabling India to take those 20 wickets and close Test matches in their favor.
With the responsibility lying on highly skilled and able shoulders, this arguably is the best chance an Indian team has had in a while to win a Test series abroad.
They have immense faith in themselves. As a team, they believe they are no less than anyone.
This young Indian troupe led by Virat Kohli believes in ‘All or Nothing’. They believe in going all out to win a Test match, if risking a defeat in the process. This mindset might well prove to be the talisman that guides them to their first ever Test series victory in South Africa.
They have the adrenaline, they have the hunger and they have the temperament. If they manage to find the right equilibrium between aggression and application, Virat Kohli and his men can be unstoppable and probably inch their way closer to being invincibles.
They might not be the hot favorites. But they are no underdogs either.