Why this India is TEAM India
Another home Test series. Another team being wiped out. Two months after losing the no. 1 Test ranking to Pakistan, India have regained the position after two comprehensive wins against a beleaguered New Zealand side.
In the past, India have been guilty of being overly reliant on one or two players, but in this series, out of the thirteen players who have played, twelve have made significant contributions. The exception is Shikhar Dhawan who made one run in the first innings before a thorough examination from Trent Boult in the second ensured he didn’t score more than 15.
But this is exactly how it should always be. Cricket is a team sport and yes, one or two players will hog the limelight often, but when the bulk of the eleven are performing, you are more likely to get positive results.
India’s opening partnership woes continued in the series, with Dhawan’s failures and KL Rahul failing to capitalize on two strong starts in Kanpur. Murali Vijay got two fifties on a tough wicket in Kanpur and Cheteshwar Pujara has proved that he is India’s best bet at no. 3.
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane made significant contributions in Kolkata too, but the lower order has been India’s biggest positive in these two games.
Rohit Sharma is rising in stature as a Test match player and Ravi Ashwin’s batting is so reliable now that he walks out ahead of Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja.
When you have as good a no. 9 as Jadeja, the batting should be in safe hands, but it has been tested to the hilt in this series, with the lower order bailing India out in all four innings they’ve played so far. Jadeja made two match-winning contributions with the bat in Kanpur, before Saha followed suit in his hometown.
For me, India’s single biggest positive over the last one year in Tests has been the emergence of Saha the batsman. He has long been touted as the best glove-man in the country but there were doubts over his ability to face quality bowling attacks. Those doubts have been blown away. A century in the West Indies would have done a world of good for his confidence, but Kolkata was a different proposition altogether.
The pitch was assisting the New Zealand quicks and the likes of Boult and Matt Henry were causing significant discomfort to the top order. But where Saha lacks in terms of talent, he makes up for with his grit and determination. What was good was that he never missed an opportunity to score and he has also improved in batting with the tail and shepherding them to get those 20-30 extra runs that could prove crucial in the larger picture.
The bowling was expected to be carried by Ashwin and Jadeja, and although they have been a significant factor, the pacers have not been left behind. Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami have used the reverse swing very well, and that has ensured that Kohli has had the liberty to give breaks to Ashwin and Jadeja.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was thought to be of very little use on home conditions, but on a pitch with assistance and overhead conditions that were ideal for him, he lived a dream for any Indian fast bowler – to pick up a five-for at home.
Two down. 11 to go, and it is highly unlikely that India will lose too many of those 11. By the end of this marathon home season, India could well have proved to the cricketing world that coming here is the most difficult proposition in Test cricket, and in the process, tighten their grip as the no. 1 Test team in the world.