What makes this Indian Test Team so special?

India dismissed England inside 52 overs to script another memorable overseas win this year.
India dismissed England inside 52 overs to script another memorable overseas win this year.

Not many Indian fans could have predicted the drama that unfolded on Day 5 of the Lord's Test, after a slow, hard-fought Day 4. England were holding all of their aces against India coming into Day 5, conceding a lead of just over 150 for a bargain of 6 wickets. Their biggest threat, Rishabh Pant, was also snaffled early on day 5. Joe Root might have started imagining his team celebrating their first test win this summer on the balcony of Lord's.

However, what happened in the next 6 hours was worthy of a Lord's test, at least for the Indian team and their fans. The Bumrah-Shami partnership gave them runs in plenty from a position of certain defeat. After that, it was a showing of hunters becoming hunted as the Indian team registered a great win by 151 runs, their third win at Lord's.

So, what does this Indian test team have that their predecessors didn't? Well, the answer is "intent".

Virat Kohli, as captain, has always been vocal about the intent that he wants his team to show. It's about going for a win at all times, even at the risk of a loss. But this has also been about him walking his talk and instilling this mindset into the team.

The pre-Kohli captaincy era for India

Flashback to the 2014 Trent Bridge Test: India batted to a position of safety with a lead of over 250 with 55 overs left in the second innings. The England camp had a batting lineup that was also under immense pressure with regard to their performance and form. Instead of having a crack at England's batting lineup, MS Dhoni decided that his team would bat on, and the result was a dull draw.

They won their next match at Lord's, but eventually the series went 3-1 to England. This just showed Dhoni's mindset of not risking a safe draw for a win that might have changed the scoreline.

Similar instances happened in the 2014 Wellington Test and the 2014 Brisbane Test as well. India let go of winning positions to draw and lose those matches respectively. This was definitely not a trademark of a world-class Test side, a trait that Virat Kohli definitely wanted to change when he took over the reins from Dhoni in 2015.

Under him, the fast bowlers transformed into a hungry pack of wolves. Kohli shifted to a 5-bowler strategy for every test, emphasizing the need to take 20 wickets even if the batsmen didn't score much. The message was also clear from this side, they were going to fight pace with pace now, even if it meant that the lineup had one batsman short and the top order had to do the heavy lifting.

This led to a change in the Indian cricketing structure as well, where fast bowlers started coming out of domestic cricket. These new fast bowlers were trained to not only have pace but discipline as well. With Kohli being a bowler's captain, all the pacers in the side showed tremendous transformation. The current pace battery of the Indian test team ranks among the best in the world.

With the bowling lineup picking itself up and the batsmen playing with a different mindset, results also started following. The team which was ranked seventh at the start of 2015, touched the pinnacle by the end of 2016 and held on to the ace spot for five consecutive years before passing it to New Zealand.

Overseas record.

The major hurdle for this team, however, was getting wins overseas. India has always had a good record at home, but their record overseas just worsened with time under Dhoni's captaincy. It was at the top of Virat Kohli's to-do list when he set off from the Indian shores with his men.

Although they lost the series to South Africa and England, their performances kept getting better, ultimately leading to their maiden test series triumph in Australia. They delivered some memorable performances which were etched in the hearts of Indian fans till eternity. Let's have a look at some famous test wins for India under Kohli:

Johannesburg 2018:

Indian batsmen took blows to their bodies but showed the fight to bat on a dreadful pitch where the South African batters were twitching at the prospect of facing the music. Eventually, India beat them in their own game for one of their finest overseas wins for the country. The team displayed the courage that their skipper demanded.

Win in alien conditions. The batsmen showed courage and the bowlers knocked out South Africa at J'Burg.
Win in alien conditions. The batsmen showed courage and the bowlers knocked out South Africa at J'Burg.

Sydney 2018-19:

The Indian batsmen ran the Australian bowlers to the ground as they amassed more than 600 runs and then asked Australia to follow on, for the first time since 1988 at home. However, rain proved merciful for the Australians, washing out the last day as India took the trophy 2-1 on Australian soil.

Brisbane 2020:

This test match proved to be memorable for both India and Australia, albeit for different reasons. It was the "Gabbatoir". India required 328 runs on a Day 5 pitch and had to tackle 5 fresh bowlers. While the world did not give them a chance, this young Indian team breached the Gabba fortress after 32 years.

The most engaging aspect, however, has been the "street fight" attitude of Virat Kohli. It has rubbed off on his team. The team knows how to give back every word that they take on the field. Whether it be Ashwin's famous reply to Tim Paine's "See you at the Gabba, mate" or Kohli's own reply to Anderson, "This isn't your f***ing backyard," they don't stand down against any opposition.

Even former Australian players suggested their own players (during last year's Border-Gavaskar trophy) to zip their mouths against India as it might bring the best out of Kohli's men. It is something which is difficult to believe for an Indian cricket fan who has seen the team surrender meekly in the 90s.

However, it does not mean that this move of being aggressive and going for wins has always been fruitful. It has also backfired on the team on several occasions. On their last tour of England in 2018, India were in winning positions at Edgbaston, Southampton and The Oval, but lost all three.

In the World Test Championship Final, a draw was the likeliest result on day 5 (or 6), but in a bid to get quick runs and give themselves a shot at the trophy, India collapsed. It allowed Kane Williamson and his men to lift the maiden WTC trophy at Southampton.

The title of World's best test team might not be India's yet, but they are definitely the team to beat.
The title of World's best test team might not be India's yet, but they are definitely the team to beat.

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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