The Indian team received another jolt in their New Zealand sojourn after losing the first Test tie of the 2-match series. More than the loss, it is how the No.1 ranked Indian team capitulated against the Kiwis will psychologically affect the morale of the team. Besides it has also posed a question mark on the team’s credibility as the top contenders to win the next year’s ICC World Test championship.
That’s why it is necessary to analyze the recent success of the Indian Test team and by doing so some interesting things have come to light. Though Virat Kohli’s troops have been winning the Test championship mace from the last three years, the team is yet to become a world-beating side. The following are the flaws that have stopped the top-ranked Test side, India from earning the tag of a world-class Test team.
Here is the list of 5 flaws which still bother the No.1 ranked Indian Test team:
1. An unsettled opening pair
If opening the innings is a boon in white-ball cricket then it is the exact opposite in the red-ball cricket. From facing the ferocity of the fast-bowlers to tackling the demons of the pitch it is one of the toughest tasks in the cricketing world. That’s why players like Gordin Greenidge, Sunil Gavaskar and Alastair Cook are considered once in a generation talent.
Unfortunately, nowadays very few teams have the luxury of quality Test openers. Even the top-ranked team, India has been facing opening conundrums in the last year or so. The team has tried out as many as 8 opening combinations in the last 20 outings. Though some of them are forced ones owing to injuries to key players the team management cannot deny that they are yet to find a stable pair at the top.
In particular, the team has struggled with their opening combinations in away Tests which is where the real character of openers are put to test. Sadly in the last 3 overseas series, only a single half-century partnership is provided by the first-wicket pair. Besides the only opener to cross the 50-mark in this period is Mayank Agarwal. From these numbers, it is clear that the opening woes continue to haunt the Indian team.
2. Uni-dimensional batting unit
Time and again this Indian batting unit has been compared with the iconic Fab-5 (Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, and VVS Laxman). In a way, it is also true as the likes of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have been shouldering the batting responsibilities of the Test team for some time now. Like their seniors, these players have also played a key role in making India a dominant force in the Test arena.
Having said that, there are certain areas where the current crop needs to improve. Starting from the skipper himself, he needs to trust his players and their skillset. A couple of days ago, he questioned the intent of the batting unit on lively pitches. According to him, the senior players should have taken the aggressive route which doesn’t sound good as every cricketer is moulded differently. Since taking over the captaincy, Kohli has tried to infuse his tactics into the entire team which has eventually led to a team where the other batsmen are trying to follow the skipper.
Moreover, this batting unit doesn’t have enough left-right combinations in the playing XI which has made the things easier for the oppositions. On top of that, most of them are free-flowing players who have hardly shown the heart to grind out on tough pitches. So in all the team is yet is to shape a well-rounded batting unit for all conditions.
3. Ignoring past mistakes
There is no doubt that this Indian team will scale more heights in the coming times. With the amount of talent in the squad, they can dominate the world cricket like the Clive Llyod’s West Indies and Ricky Ponting‘s Australia. But for that to happen, Virat Kohli and his comrades have to learn from their past mistakes, which is a quality of a good team.
Surprisingly, the team has been committing the same mistakes over and over again in the SENA countries. The most common one being the bowling’s unit baffling approach against lower-order batsmen. In the last 9 lost Test matches across SENA countries, the bowling attack has conceded 98 runs on average while accounting for the final 4 wickets.
The other slip-up which has not been discussed much in the cricketing circle is the team’s inability to tackle new-ball on the first day morning of a Test match. There have been five instances where the team has lost half of their side for less than 100 runs in the last couple of years. Besides, the team has always conceded slender leads in away games when they are near to the first innings total of opposition which has eventually come to haunt them in the final outcome of the game.
4. Over-dependence on star players
From their recent record, it is crystal clear that India has been of the consistent sides in the international circuit. Barring a couple of prominent series losses the team has done exceedingly well under Virat Kohli’s leadership. Notably, the maiden ODI series win in South Africa and the Test series win in Australia are a couple of golden feathers in the Indian Cap.
However, having a close at their success one can easily point out a disturbing pattern. The team has been enjoying a chain of one-man shows. In simple terms, the individual brilliance of stars like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, and Jasprit Bumrah has overshadowed the team’s underlying problems.
To be precise the above trio has shared 16 Man of the Match awards among themselves in the last 30 successful games for India across formats. These numbers suggest that India is overtly dependent on their star players. Even though other players have shown odd sparks they haven’t given the required stability to the team which in turn has made this Indian unit look like rold gold instead of pure gold.
5. Extensive focus on playing combinations
There is no denying the fact that the current Indian team is way ahead than their senior teams in terms of fitness and skillset. Moreover, the depth in the squad is also quite remarkable. That’s why the cricketing fraternity is always expecting big things whenever Virat Kohli and his men are involved in a high-profile series.
Sadly they have not lived up to their billing in important tournaments. The primary reason being the team management and skipper’s extensive focus on playing combinations. Most of the time, the team selection has been done based on numbers and records. While following such processes, the team has also not hesitated to drop established players from the playing XI.
It can also be validated from the recent exclusion of Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja in the first Test against New Zealand. Even after playing consistent cricket for the last year or so, both were dropped owing to their poor outings in the lone practice match.
Saha who has been considered the best wicket-keeper by the team made way for Rishabh Pant because of his batting superiority. While Jadeja was replaced by Ravi Ashwin because of his poor record in last New Zealand sojourn. In layman terms, this team is playing the game more with the mind than with the heart.
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