The real 'Test' for Team India
The Indian Test team has arguably been one of the most dominating teams in international cricket over the past five years. But if we do a deep dive into numbers, the statistics reveal a different picture. While India has been simply unbeatable at home, winning a record ten consecutive Test series on the trot, they have struggled to even draw series against top Test teams while touring abroad.
While Kohli and his brigade have been all-conquering against visiting sides on their home turf, they have often failed to replicate their success against quality Test oppositions like England, South Africa, New Zealand in their backyard. In the last five years, India’s overseas series wins have come against weaker teams like Sri Lanka and West Indies who have been struggling in the longer format of the game.
The Indian team has dished out a foolproof recipe for success at home playing to their key strengths on the spin-friendly tracks. They have firepower both in the batting and bowling arsenal to devise a winning strategy around their opponents. While the batting unit has been spearheaded by skipper Virat Kohli who is the lynchpin courtesy his prolific run-scoring prowess, Cheteshwar Pujara has been rock solid in the middle playing the sheet anchor's role to perfection.
India have a dependable opening pair in Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, who have been among the runs in bilateral series played at home. The team has depth and balance with all-rounders in Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin who have showcased their skill with both bat and ball. Wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha has also been pretty handy with the bat besides his clinical glovemanship behind the stumps.
The Indian bowling has complimented the batting efforts by contributing immensely in carving out wins against top quality oppositions. The spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been the strike weapons casting a web around visiting sides with their spin and guile.
R Ashwin has been arguably the most lethal off-spinner in the last five seasons, often running through the defences of oppositions with his bag full of variations. The emergence of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal has further bolstered India’s spin armoury. The biggest plus for India has been the emergence of a potent seam attack.
The Indian seam attack has looked the most lethal over the course of India's Test history. With Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s prodigious swing coupled with Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma's raw pace and bounce, Indian pace attack is among the best in the world.
India's Test Record at Home (Jan 2013 - Nov 2018)
Played 29 Won 23 Lost 1 Draw 5 Win % - 79.31
It comes as no surprise that India haven’t yet managed to win a Test series against South Africa or Australia on their soil. The Indians suffered successive whitewashes to England and Australia in 2011. They again had a tough time negotiating the pace of Australia, South Africa and England on recent Test tours.
The Indian batting has been repeatedly found wanting against quality pace attacks in seaming conditions. While the team put up some spirited performances, winning Test matches against South Africa in Johannesburg (2006 and 2018), versus Australia in Adelaide (2003) and Perth (2008), against New Zealand in Hamilton (2009) and England at Nottingham (2007,2018) and Lord's (2014), in all honesty, they have been far and few.
Indian openers’ weakness to counter the seaming delivery has been exposed time again. Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul were all worked out by the English seamers on the last England tour. There have been flashes of brilliance by Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, but they need to deliver more consistently with the willow against quality attacks. Rohit Sharma who has bloomed in the limited overs format have quite not found his range in red ball cricket. Over-dependence on batting stalwart Virat Kohli has put India in a spot of bother times again.
The advent of T20 cricket has taken an adverse toll on the temperament of youngsters to play the long innings. KL Rahul who struck a purple patch in T20s has found it tough to get going in the red ball cricket. Indian spinners who have been match-winners on rank turners haven’t been as menacing on overseas tracks. However, on recent tours, the well-rounded pace attack has bowled out sides to give India an upper edge and even won some matches.
Taking no credit away from India’s stupendous winning run at home, the ICC rankings are deceptive to an extent and may not reveal the entire picture. If subcontinent giants India have to rank among the great Test teams of all time, they need to start winning consistently on overseas tours to back their stellar domestic record.
All great Test teams of yesteryears boasted of impressive records while travelling abroad. The upcoming Test series against Australia will once again give a great opportunity for India to win its maiden series Down Under. With Australia not the force they once were, India have a great chance of pulling off a series win and adding a golden chapter in the annals of their cricket history.