What’s the story?
After a 333-run loss in the first Test, it seemed as if India’s juggernaut had come to an abrupt, shuddering stop. But the team picked itself quickly, dusted itself, and notched up wins in Bengaluru and Dharamsala to complete a comprehensive home season, with series wins against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia. While speaking after the culmination of the home season, captain Virat Kohli reminisced the journey, lauding his troops for their sensational performance:
“It is surreal to be standing here. The journey from number seven to number one in two years has been surreal. To finish at the number one spot is outstanding and we never thought it would be possible when we began”, Kohli said.
In case you didn’t know…
The Indian team had dropped down to the seventh spot in the ICC Test rankings in April 2015, not having played a single Test series at home since November 2013, the series in which Sachin Tendulkar retired. It was a rude awakening for the side, who were just above Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and West Indies back then.
The next year and a half saw the team evolve into a settled side. It started with wins against Sri Lanka and South Africa, followed by a successful tour to the West Indies, and subsequently the home leg that extended for 13 Tests.
The heart of the matter
Kohli was quick to state that each of the matches in the home season were tough, right from the ones against South Africa and Sri Lanka. While the one against England was a competitive one, the series against Australia turned out to be the toughest of the lot.
Yet, apart from one loss, the team remained unbeaten throughout the home season, completing a sensational turnaround from the depths of the seventh spot just two years back.
The Indian team also retained the ICC Test mace, also winning a cash award of USD 1 Million for sealing their place at the top of the rankings on the cut-off date, i.e. April 1. Kohli received the diamond studded mace from Sunil Gavaskar at the end of the Dharamsala Test.
The team will get a much-needed break after a long and gruelling stretch of Test cricket, but the core of the team will have to get back to the field in a matter of one week, with the IPL getting underway in the first week of April.
When Kohli had taken over the captaincy from Dhoni, the team was still in a transition phase, with several players still trying to find their feet in Test cricket. Credit must go to the coaching staff, Anil Kumble and Sanjay Bangar in particular, of giving youngsters enough chances to prove their mettle. The evolution of Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav and KL Rahul highlights the faith reposed by the team in them. Given the emphatic fashion in which they have notched up victories at home, there is no reason why they can’t do the same abroad.