Kolkata: The Alastair Cook-led English side toyed with the Indian bowling attack in the first Test at Rajkot putting up a mammoth total of 537. Well, Virat Kohli’s bad luck with the toss has made a difference. But if one is preparing himself to run him down, then hold it.
Rewind a bit: Seeing MS Dhoni’s boys almost snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against a rejuvenated West Indian side in the first T20 International at Florida some days back, was no doubt a pleasant experience. Yes, MS, the finisher may have failed to hit the winning run, but let’s not forget that in the 20-over format, chasing such a huge total of 245 isn’t a child’s play.
Experts didn’t mince words while castigating Captain Cool and even foreseeing his retirement from international cricket advising him to pass on the mantle to Test skipper Kohli. But amid the volley of salvos directed at MS, one misses the silver lining emanating from the courageous loss.
Looking back, there’s hardly any instance when India braved all odds to come so close to victory chasing such a humongous total. Before the Florida encounter, India’s highest total chasing in a T-20 International was 211 with a target of 207 against Sri Lanka at Mohali in 2009.
Things have changed and thanks to the increasing number of T20 games played all over the world, there’s a lot of aggression that players display, be it in bowling or batting. A Chris Gayle scores tons at ease. Kohli makes it a habit of notching up high scores. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Fa du Plessis and AB de Villiers are superstars in the shortest version of the game. In this context, India’s rise in T20s augurs well for the future of the game in the country. These boys do not crumble under pressure and dare to take the game right down to the wire irrespective of the opponents.
Talking of T-20 Internationals, written off as just a more-than-a month circus by the conservative critics, Indian Premier League (IPL) has won more brickbats than bouquets. But it’s the IPL that brought into the limelight a KL Rahul, earlier ruled out of the T20 format for being a strokeless genius. Rahul’s century and his partnerships with Rohit and MS in the first T20 against West Indies cement his place in the side for the time being at the expense of the inconsistent Shikhar Dhawan.
Indian cricket is treading a path that will lead to one successful campaign after another. Here’s the catch. On one hand, Kohli leads India to triumph in Tests against West Indies and New Zealand, and on the other hand, MS’s boys score over a talented Kiwi side in the ODIs. Team India is here to stay. Team India has it in it to tear apart any bowling attack in all the formats of the game. Team India shows the zeal not to give up come what may.
In the current context, leave aside the Lodha Commission’s recommendations, there’s so much that Indian cricket can look forward to. An aggressive skipper in the five-day-format and a cool leader in the truncated versions of the game—Indian cricket has the perfect weapons to take on its opponents. And with a shrewd coach in Anil Kumble, we are on the right track.
In ODIs, the boys have delivered, be it Kohli or MS or Hardhik Pandya or Amit Mishra or Axar Patel or even a Kedar Jadhav. In Tests, the comeback of Gautam Gambhir provides stability to the top order and with Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha to follow, there’s enough strength down the order to look to. And add to it, Ravinder Jadeja, Mohammed Sami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma who are match-winners any day with the ball.
The injuries to Rohit and Rahul are impediments though for a brief period. Talking about Captain Cool and his captaincy, it would be unfair on our part to write his cricketing obituary in the wake of India’s T-20 series loss to West Indies. And he proved his mettle once again by leading his side to victory against the Kiwis in the ODI series.
On the leadership front in the modified versions of the game, one sees nothing wrong at this point of time though Kohli is breathing around MS’s neck. The current ODI and T20 skipper hasn’t lost any of his qualities, both as a leader and a player. Beyond bowling and batting, it’s the never-say-die spirit of the Men in Blue on the field that captures one’s fancy.
These young guns are raring to go and led by experienced skippers with impeccable records, they are on course. On the Test front, Kohli has emerged as the ideal successor to MS. And with a veteran like Kumble playing the role of a mentor and coach, both Kohli and MS are laying the foundation for a successful journey for Indian cricket.
So, let’s wind up on a positive note. Team India has arrived after a process of transition. The likes of Gavaskars, Gangulys and Tendulkars would be cherishing the emergence of a young side ready to take on the world.
Yes, as most experts would point out, it’s victories abroad that define true leadership skills and one really hopes Kohli has it in mind and so has MS. But as of now, being the Number One side in Tests, Team India is on a roll.
One hopes and prays Kohli’s Team India does not surrender before the visiting English side going by the former’s abysmal record against the tourists in recent times. But the body language remains positive and the opening partnership between Gambhir and M Vijay, proves that there’s fire in the belly. So, let’s repose our faith in this team that can surely make an impact.