Australia vs India 2018-19: Is the Adelaide victory the beginning of a new chapter for Indian cricket?
- A look back at all the transitions that the Indian Test side had undergone in the past 2 decades, and what may be in store in the future.
If you happen to be an Indian cricket fan who closely watched the first Test between India and Australia, then you would agree that the beauty of Test cricket came back to life in this contest. It was a game that swung like a pendulum with each side trying to go one up in the series, but eventually, India proved why they are the No. 1 ranked team in the world.
You have to feel for the brave resistance offered by the Australian lower order to take their side so close to a miraculous win. However, credit goes to India for keeping their nerves till the very end.
It was yet again the bowlers who raised their game to script a historic win - the first time a touring Indian side has managed to win the first Test match in the series. Also, credit goes to Virat Kohli for marshaling his resources to precision.
Over the last two decades, Indian cricket has been through a period of transition on a number of occasions. It all started at the dawn of the new millennium, when Sourav Ganguly took the reins of the captaincy after a heartbreaking match-fixing episode which tarnished the image of the sport.
Under Ganguly's leadership, Team India learned how to play against some of the most ferocious opponents on their soil. His strategy was simple – do not sledge, but if someone plays it dirty, give it back.
It was an eye-for-an-eye kind of attitude which changed the approach of the players in the Indian Test team. Beating Pakistan on their home soil and leveling the series in Australia still serve as a peg of inspiration for the current team.
After that, the infamous Greg Chappell episode created a major rift in the Indian team. Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly chose to retire at the peak of their careers, and the baton was rightly handed over to MS Dhoni.
Many would argue that Ganguly was the best captain of the Indian team, whereas Dhoni was the captain of the best Indian team. But while Dhoni may not have been instrumental in taking the attitude of his team to a new level, he retained the attitude of his predecessor.
With coach Gary Kirsten by his side, Dhoni created several records as captain. India went on to become the No. 1 Test side in the world, and won the 2011 World Cup.
But when it came to overseas Test wins, Dhoni's men remained a struggling side.
Then came the third phase of transition. It was time to bid adieu to some of the stalwarts of the game. Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and then the biggest name in the Fab Five unit, Sachin Tendulkar, retired on their own terms.
Virender Sehwag remained out of favor despite his twin triple tons. And that’s when the current generation of cricketers evolved - in the wake of the changes after the 2011 World Cup triumph.
Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteswar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane found their firm footing in the Test side. But Dhoni himself, undoubtedly the most reliable wicketkeeper behind the stumps, kept having to fight his own demons to succeed in the long format of the game.
Widely known for his Midas touch in limited overs cricket, Dhoni somehow struggled to find his mojo in the long format of the game. Critics often voiced their concerns stating that captain Dhoni got too defensive in Test cricket, and that’s when the game was lost.
To everyone’s surprise, Dhoni chose to retire from the long format of the game in the middle of the 2014 tour to Australia.
It was then that Kohli emerged as the new Test captain of the side. He shared a great camaraderie with Ravi Shastri, who was then serving as the interim team manager after coach Duncan Fletcher’s exit.
The duo of Kohli and Shastri tried a number of permutations and combinations in the Test side. A number of players were tried and tested, in order to arrive at the best possible XI.
Sometimes that backfired, but Kohli continued to emerge as one of the finest Test players in the world. Today, he has even earned himself the tag of being the No. 1 Test batsman in the world.
In the interim, the team again went through a brief period of turmoil when Anil Kumble stepped down as the coach of Indian team, citing differences with Kohli. The BCCI had to start looking out for a new coach and a number of prospective candidates were screened in the process.
Shastri then came back to the team stronger than ever before, this time in the capacity of a coach. The camaraderie between Kohli and Shastri rose to a new high. They had a clear vision this time – to make India the No. 1 touring side in the world.
However, India lost a couple of test series in England and South Africa in 2018. Nobody dared to question Kohli for his rotational policies as barring him, the entire batting unit failed miserably in overseas conditions.
A lot has been said about the on-going Test series between India and Australia. There were speculations that David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, and Steve Smith could make a comeback in the high-profile series if Cricket Australia chose to offer them clemency. But that didn't happen, and the Australian team has been left with only a handful of competent players.
The once-invincible Australian team has well and truly lost its swagger. Despite a strong bowling attack, the team without David Warner and Steve Smith is almost as weak as a minnow.
The Indian team is likely to come out all guns blazing in this Test series, and a 4-0 whitewash looks quite probable
It remains to be seen how the Indian team is going to perform in the forthcoming tours after the World Cup 2019. In the past two decades, the team has come back much stronger after every windfall.
Is the Adelaide win going to be the opening chapter of a brand new saga in Indian cricket? More answers are likely to surface as the series progresses.Published 12 Dec 2018, 18:44 IST