Why being competitive is not enough for India
India's highly anticipated Test series against England is done and dusted. The Indian team lost a hard-fought series by 4-1. However, the series wasn't as one-sided as the scoreline suggests with India giving England a run for its money. India came agonisingly close to victory in the first and fourth Test and if they could have clinched a couple of crucial moments in those Tests, the scoreline would have been in India's favour.
The Indian captain and coach are taking pride in the fact that India competed brilliantly, but should we be content with only being competitive?
The Indian team went in the Test series as the number one Test side in the world - they had given a tough fight to a formidable South African side earlier in the year and were a team to beat. While in batting they had the experience of Vijay, Pujara and Rahane, and the flair of Dhawan and Rahul; the bowling department, which has often been India's Achilles heel, was turning into India's forte with the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav forming a lethal pace attack.
India had also managed to find a fast-bowling all-rounder in Hardik Pandya, who had drawn comparisons with the great Kapil Dev. And of course, they had a charismatic leader and arguably the best batsman in the world, Virat Kohli.
On the other hand, England was struggling in Tests. After the 4-0 Ashes drubbing, England lost the 2-match series against New Zealand 1-0. They did not have the best of the starts to the summer either. Playing at home they managed to level the series 1-1 against Pakistan. England's batting line-up looked unsettled and the England side, on the whole, looked vulnerable. Experts and pundits felt that this was India's best chance of winning a Test series in England.
Now that the series is over, the Indian players should ask themselves if this is the result that was expected from them. The Indian team management is trying to find out 'positives' moving ahead but is it the time of finding positives from losses or aiming to win series?
This team isn't a young side that succumbed to pressure situations. Most of the players have been in the Test side for more than four years. So the excuse that they are taking time to settle down in the team won't work this time around. Neither Virat Kohli nor Ravi Shastri can lament that they weren't given enough time to prepare themselves for the Test series. BCCI gave the Indian team whatever they asked for and they won't be wrong in asking why they haven’t got the returns.
Kohli, who made monumental blunders in team selections and on-field tactics, has been leading the side for almost four years now. BCCI has been kind enough to provide him with everything, they even sacked a coach who he did not get along with. Kohli should also remember that his predecessors were judged by how they performed in overseas conditions and not on the number of matches they won in India.
Indian coach Ravi Shastri's statement that this Indian team is the best travelling side in the last 15 years shows the kind of a pompous attitude that is dwelling in the current Indian team. Shastri is perhaps forgetting Dravid's team in 2007 that won the series against England in England and Kumble's side that stunned an invincible Australian side by winning the Perth Test back in 2008.
This Indian team is more than capable of beating any side in the world in any condition. This is the main reason why so much is expected from them. This team is expected to win every match they play. And if the desired results aren't delivered then something must be terribly wrong within the team.
If this team isn't winning series abroad then it isn't doing justice to its talent. Thus, it is high time that the Board of Control for Cricket in India take some control rather than giving a free hand to Kohli and company.