Coach Shastri and captain Kohli's claim of India being best travelling team rings true

Ajit Vijaykumar 20:42 28/01/2019
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Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri.

During the 4-1 Test series defeat in England last year, India coach Ravi Shastri and later captain Virat Kohli stated this was the best touring Indian team of the last 15 or so years.

That statement seemed out of place simply because India, despite having a strong bowling and batting line-up, lost Test series in South Africa and England whereas the 2007 Indian team had managed to win the series in England.

But the Indian hierarchy was adamant. They ended 2018 having lost seven Tests in a calendar year with four wins. Definitely not the greatest record.

However, by the end of the first month of 2019, that statement by Shastri and Kohli is beginning to ring true. The current Indian side is the best team away from home in international cricket.

As the men in blue secured a comfortable win in the third ODI against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui on Monday, they had made it five ODI wins on the bounce in Australia and New Zealand. They also took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series to go with the ODI and Test series wins in Australia.

Since the Champions Trophy final defeat to Pakistan in 2017, India have lost just one out of 11 ODI series. That is a staggering effort given India haven’t always fielded their best playing XI in both formats.

India rested pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah for the recent Australia ODI series and subsequent tour of New Zealand. They were without key all-rounder Hardik Pandya for the entire tour of the Antipodes until the third ODI in New Zealand.

Before that during the Test series in Australia, off-spinner Ravi Ashwin picked up an injury after the first Test in Adelaide. Going back to the tour of England, India were without Bhuvneshwar Kumar for almost the entire tour while Bumrah returned from injury after India had lost the first two Tests.

But one thing has remained constant – India’s competitiveness. Whatever the format, opposition conditions, India have put up a fight in almost every match regardless of their XI.

Two other teams could have laid claim to the tag of being the best travellers in all formats – South Africa and England. However, the Proteas’ 2-0 Test thrashing in Sri Lanka last year, coupled with their struggles at home in ODIs – having lost 5-1 to India and battling to win against Pakistan in the ongoing series – weakens their case.

England can claim to be close to India given their emphatic 4-1 Test series win at home against Kohli’s team and 3-0 win in Sri Lanka coupled with ODI series wins against Australia and India at home and against Sri Lanka away.

But their disastrous effort during the Barbados Test against the West Indies this week, and successive innings defeats in Australia and New Zealand at the start of last year, means the Englishmen have issues to tackle.

Which makes India easily the most well-settled and challenging team in the world; we are not even considering their stupendous record at home even as every other team is losing matches in their backyard. India’s wins are numerous and impressive but their defeats are very rarely embarrassing. And that is the hallmark of a truly champion team.

There is an apt couplet in Urdu which goes something like this: “Don’t be so proud of your win… people are talking more about my defeat than your victory.” That’s the level the Indian team has reached.

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