India needs two more runs to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. KL Rahul, who has had a wonderful series, is on strike. Australia’s spinner, Steeve O’Keefe, is the bowler. A pumped up stand-in Indian skipper, Ajinkya Rahane, is at the other end. The Australian bowls it short, which is smashed by Rahul past midwicket.
The duo runs really hard; they run three when they need just two. Rahul roars into the air with a fist pump, showing what the series means to him. The camera immediately goes to the Indian dressing room; as always Indian head coach Anil Kumble is capturing the beautiful moments with his camera and an aggressive Virat Kohli shouts, “come on, yes!”
The beautiful ‘mountainery’ scenic view at the backdrop of the HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala only enhanced the delightful moments of India’s historic victory. The victory was even more special because India has proven that they can still be No. 1 without Virat Kohli. The team is no more solely dependent on him and that is a massive step in the long run of the team
Proud to be a part of this group. Outstanding effort to win this game & the series. Jai Hind pic.twitter.com/9lTnkiig7i— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) March 28, 2017
Although the Australians put up a strong fight against the hosts (becoming India’s best opponents of this home season), the World No. 1 Test side still kept their dominance against Australia at home, intact. In the last 10 years, Australia have managed just one series win on the Indian soil (2004-05).
In the 2016-17 season, India won 10 Tests and that is the joint second-most by any team in a season. Australia’s defeat gave India a win in their seventh consecutive Test series. Moreover, the “Men in Blue” in their whites have clean swept their home season of 2016-17 with victories in all the Test series they played (New Zealand, England and Bangladesh falling prey as well).
While India have defeated all the biggies at home, a bigger challenge awaits Kohli’s boys. In order to prove they are the best-ever Test side in recent times; they must replicate their dominance at home away from familiar conditions. In the last two years, India have only toured two countries — Sri Lanka and West Indies — both not considered a competitive team, considering the standards India have put on show.
The overseas challenge
India, in fact, will not tour any country for a Test series in 2017. After the ICC Champions Trophy in England, India only host Australia for a limited-overs series. The massive challenge awaits India early next year when they are scheduled to tour South Africa for a full-fledged series which includes Tests, ODIs and T20Is. South Africa faced a 0-3 drubbing at the hands of India (in the sub-continent) in 2015 and they will consider the upcoming series a time for payback.
The Test venues are yet to be decided by the usual Test cricket grounds in South Africa are the Wanderers in Johannesburg, Newlands in Cape Town and St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth.
What can South Africa offer?
While the Wanderers and the Newlands are the typical South African fast-tracked pitches, St George’s Park gives more of a sub-continent feel where spinners have a major role to play. The Wanderers suits seam and when at the Newlands, swing plays a decisive role.
However, both the wickets bring spinners into the picture at some point in the game. Mostly, it is after the first three days when the wicket dries out and tends to be conducive of the ball gripping the surface.
All the three are high-scoring wickets. If the batsmen are patient enough to let the ball come on to the bat, a lot of runs can be stacked up in the first two days. It goes without saying that the toss plays a major role and batting first has always garnered an advantage.
This Indian team can
Between 1992 and 2013, India toured South Africa six times but have failed to defeat the hosts in the bilateral Test series.
The current Indian team possesses the ability to conquer the South Africans in their backyard. In the form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s seam, Umesh Yadav’s swing and pace, Mohammad Shami’s reverse swing and the arsenal of world class spinners, viz. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, India have the perfect blend in the bowling attack that can aid India in achieving the goal – an overseas series win in South Africa.
Every bowler in the Indian team is high on confidence at present. A collective effort from them won India the decisive fourth Test against Australia. Jadeja was the Player of the Series with 25 wickets and two fifties, that came right when India needed someone to step up. Ashwin was not far away with 21 scalps of his own. Umesh Yadav, who proved to be good with the new ball adequately troubled the Australian openers, picked up 17 wickets.
While Bhuvneshwar played only in the final game bagged two wickets, Shammi did not play the series. And who can forget Kuldeep Yadav, the man who tormented the Aussies at Dharamsala.
The batting in the India team is in safe hands. The bats of KR Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Wriddhiman Saha have done the talking in the last few Tests.
While Rahul scored six fifties against Australia in four Tests, Pujara had a double century. Saha, meanwhile notched up a hundred as well; only the Indian captain had a forgettable Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
However, for a player like Kohli, who scored four Test double hundreds in four consecutive series big things are always expected of him every time he steps onto the field with the willow in hand. Meanwhile, Rahane against his usual game scored at a strike-rate of 140+ in a Test.
Provided all these faces remain fit and not let their form shake, this new “Team India” is ready to make a mark on the other continent. A draw will not be good enough; the aggressive approach to the game in the recent series has testified the fact that this Kohli’s side has been taught just one word – WIN!