India’s home record in the last 10 years is truly a sight to behold, the current No. 1 ranked Test nation winning 27 of the 43 Test matches they’ve played, losing just four times.
They’ve lost just one series, in 2012 against England, and drawn two against South Africa in 2008 and 2010.
Since that loss to England, India have won 11 out of the 12 Tests they have played at home – drawing once against South Africa last year, a match in Bengaluru which saw play possible only on day one due to heavy rains.
The only country that even comes close to matching India’s home Test record is Australia, which begs the question: What makes India so exceptional in home conditions?
Rarely has the Indian team been thrown a surprise pitch in home Test matches. Subtle differences in bounce and turn make these pitches quite different from one another.
Most Indian batsmen have extensive experience in domestic cricket, and therefore understand the different pitches very well. Given the exhaustive domestic structure in India, local Indian batsmen play on well over 15 pitches in a given season.
It is well known that Indian pitches are tailored more for spinners than for fast bowlers. India tend to have a good bunch of spinners and at times are not dependent on just their top two spinners.
Even in the ongoing series against New Zealand, Amit Mishra – who has taken 28 wickets in his last seven Tests at an average of 20.64 – can’t get a game.
In fact, the one series India lost at home recently, England’s Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann outperformed their Indian counterparts with ease. The spin duo had 37 wickets between them in the series.
In contrast, India’s premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin got only 14 wickets in four Tests at an average of over 50 – something that has not come close to happening in any other Test series he has played in the sub-continent.
INDIAN BATSMEN STEP UP TO THE MARK
Given Indian pitches are not the most conducive to fast bowling, visiting teams also have to extensively rely on spinners to compete in the sub-continent.
Firstly, Indian batsmen who don’t tend to fare very well against swing, pace and bounce, don’t have to worry too much about such things at home.
Secondly, visiting spinners are often simply not good enough to trouble the Indian batsmen on their home turf.
The legend of India’s impressive home record dates back far beyond the last decade. The rank turners, the hot and dusty afternoons, the rambunctious crowds – all these have created an aura around touring India.
The Indian players play with a different intensity at home and wholeheartedly believe that the match isn’t lost even when they are down in the dumps.
Essentially, India’s aggression and belief at home is very similar to Australia’s Down Under. This reflects in the impressive record that both teams have in their respective home conditions.
There is a small clip doing the rounds on the internet where a delighted – yet surprisingly calm – Virat Kohli is seen raising his index finger, wearing a proud smile on his face.
Yes, his team is now the number one Test side in the world.
In just a little over a month and a half, the No. 1 Test spot has welcomed India only to ask them to move out to make a place for Pakistan, to now asking Pakistan to do the same for India.
But with another 11 Test matches in the extensive home season ahead and the Indian side striding forward like a well-oiled machine, this number one spot seems like it’s here to stay.
Like that stock which rises exponentially or that batch-mate who gets placed better than the others, the Indian Test team is sure to invite a lot of criticism.
The ‘tailor-made pitches’, the ‘flat-track bullies’, the ‘extreme weather conditions’ – the archived lists are out. But, maybe, this time around this Indian Test team is better prepared to answer all those criticisms than ever before.
Of course, the spinners are dominating and the way Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowl in tandem, in India, they seem invincible. But, in a sport that glorifies the individual but almost never promises healthy returns unless the team clicks together, to say that individuals win you matches let alone take you to the top of the rankings, is preposterous.
Thus, in an act dominated by the spin duo of Ashwin and Jadeja, it is a supporting role here from a batsman or a soliloquy there from a seamer that makes the act a success. And when everyone in the ensemble knows what they have to do, it makes the performance even more delightful.
This team is starting to tick off boxes. Most players either at peak or looking ahead to best years.Should be able to challenge overseas too— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) October 4, 2016
A glaring example is India’s seam bowling performance in the second Test; of the 20 wickets taken by Indian bowlers, 12 were taken by the seamers.
The current Indian Test team, perhaps, bats the deepest too. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar coming in at number 10 in the Kolkata Test, it’s a pretty long tail that wags, and wags well.
On India’s tour to Australia in 2014-15, in the Adelaide Test, India were chasing 364 and were in a good position at 299/5, but to everyone’s surprise, they ended up losing the next five wickets for just 16 runs. The current Indian batting line-up seems to have done very well to have that base covered.
Against New Zealand, at 291/9 on a pretty decent wicket at the end of day one, India would’ve thought that they had squandered the advantage of winning the toss. But Wriddhiman Saha and Mohammad Shami – the two local boys – came out and added those crucial 27 runs.
When, in the second innings, India were reeling yet again, Rohit Sharma and Saha steadied the ship, taking the Indian lead to a point from which New Zealand could never catch up.
Another department in which the current Indian Test side has made major advances is fitness. Captain Kohli is perhaps one of the fittest athletes in the world and it is evident that his approach has rubbed off on his team as well.
From Shikhar Dhawan to Jadeja to Ajinkya Rahane, it’s a luxury to have players in the field who do not need to hide from the batsmen.
Over and above any of these considerations, the one thing that makes this Indian team stand out, is the belief. If this side is 106/6 on a day three pitch, it doesn’t lose hope.
Like that assiduous student who has lost all his notes, a batsman can come out and start building a partnership virtually from scratch. If the opposition’s batsmen have answers to everything that the Indian bowlers are throwing at them, they still keep coming.
So many previous Indian Test sides have lacked grit, now they seem to have it in abundance; Test cricket is as much about perseverance as it is skill. That extra over, that extra bouncer at the batsman, that extra leave outside the off-stump, makes such a difference. Such moments might seem inconsequential, but they all contribute to create the mosaic of a champion team.
Then there’s the captain. Quite a departure from his predecessor, Kohli will walk up to his bowler more often.
He will keep cheering his boys. He will take the umpire head on and be the first one to jump in ebullience at the slightest possibility of success. He will also make the most of home advantage by imploring the crowd to cheer for his side.
Kohli, unlike others, doesn’t let go of even a moment to show how much he loves this job, and what happens when you love something that you do isn’t apocryphal anymore.
So, does this team deserve to be called the best Test team in the world? At the moment, yes, but as they say, the race to the top is easy, the fight to stay there isn’t.
Starting October 8 in Indore, this team will compete not to be the number one team anymore, but to remain at the top spot. How well they fight this fight will determine how good they are. By the looks of it, at the moment, they seem to be in it for the long haul.
There were reports earlier in the day that the Lodha Committee had frozen the bank accounts of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), resulting in the possibility of the series between India and New Zealand being cancelled.
Justice Lodha has now denied those reports, stating that the committee’s directive to the BCCI was confined to disbursement of large funds to state associations and that the BCCI’s accounts haven’t been frozen.
Speaking to ANI about the matter, Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha said: “There is no question of any cancellations of a game or series. The directives which we issued to BCCI yesterday in our e-mail is confined to disbursement of large funds to state associations.
“The accounts of BCCI have not been frozen. This isn’t correct reading of our e-mail, rather this is misinterpreting it. The routine expenses for matches, games, cricketing activities and other administrative matters are not at all restrained.”
Earlier, the Indian Express had reported that a BCCI source had told them: “We have no option other than to call off the India-New Zealand series as our banks have decided to freeze BCCI accounts.”
This Lodha v BCCI stuff is all just a ploy to keep Gambhir from playing Test matches again.— Sir Dennis Jadeja (@DennisCricket_) October 4, 2016
LODHA CLEARS IPL-CHAMPIONS TROPHY CONFUSION
On Monday, BCCI President Anurag Thakur had warned that India might not take part in the ICC Champions Trophy next year if the board decides to implement the recommendations put forward by the Lodha Committee.
The Lodha Committee had proposed that there should be a window of 15 days where no international matches are played by the Indian team before and after the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Justice Lodha clarified the matter, stating that if the 2017 IPL and Champions Trophy were planned a year ago, then there is no need to follow his recommendations for the two tournaments.
“If the Champions Trophy calendar was already settled a year back, our recommendations won’t affect that,” he added.