Indian Cricket Fever
Kohli and Company Step into the Whirlwind
By Gaurang
December 21 2017

India the current No. 1 Test side by a large margin, have had a dream run in Test cricket starting with the tour to Bangladesh in 2014-15.  Their dominance has been stunning.  21 wins and only 2 losses studded across 9 consecutive series wins, where they beat every team including South Africa, Australia, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and Bangladesh.  In the process Virat Kohli is now the Only captain in Test history to have lost less than 10% of his matches.  Having lost only 3 out of his 32 Tests.  Not Steve Waugh, not Don Bradman, not Ricky Ponting, not Clive Lloyd, and certainly not Steve Smith who has lost nearly one third of the matches he has captained can match his record currently.  But Team India and Kohli himself are about to be Tested like they haven't been in a long while.  

Critics of Kohli would argue that he has not faced the most challenging of conditions. A large percentage of his series wins and they were emphatic wins, no doubt, against quality teams, came in India. The only overseas Test series wins he has managed so far, are against the lesser Test teams of Bangladesh, West Indies and Sri Lanka (twice).

The Next 18 months will see India play South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand all away from home.  How they fare over this year and a half will determine whether Virat and his team are hailed as the greatest team in Indian cricket history, and arguably one of the greatest in all of test history, or will they once again show that Indian cricket teams are tigers moslty at home only.

This stark difference between performance at home versus abroad is not something that is limited to India or Indian cricket. Except for a few teams in history, such as the Clive Lloyd and later Viv Richards led West Indies of the 70s and 80s and the Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting led Aussies from the late 90s to the late 00s, most teams have suffered similarly.  The most recent example is how the World No. 3 England just got pummled by the lower ranked Australians in Australia. And this is a phenomenon that has existed for a very long time.  For example Pakistan had not won a Test series in West Indies for over 50 years until they did so recently, and have never won a Test series in Australia or South Africa.   Sri Lanka not only haven’t won Test series in England, Australia or South Africa, they have actually never won one in India either.

So history is not looking good for Virat and his men. Additionally, the money hungry BCCI has in its most insensitive avatar scheduled India to play a home series against Sri Lanka consisting of 3 Tests, 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is running upto the last week of December…Leaving the Indian team with hardly any time to even travel to, let alone acclimatize or properly prepare for what is sure to be a very tough assignment in South Africa.

In the absence of proper planning by the BCCI, Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri have done the best they can. Kohli himself has recused himself from playing in the shortest format of the game, and he along with Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane are the backbone of India’s Test batting.  Similarly India has recused its key Test bowlers, including Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Ravi Ashwin, and Ravi Jadeja from playing in the hit and giggle versions of the game against a weak Lankan side, hoping to preserve them for the much tougher challenges ahead.

On paper India has done all its homework, having picked a 17 man squad bristling with options in every position, from openers, to middle order to wicket keepers, pacers and spinners. Now the only thing that remains is to actually go out and do it.

Indian cricket fans, especially Test cricket fans will be looking forward to this with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Virat who recently got married to long-time girlfriend, Bollywood Diva Anushka Sharma, has enjoyed a honeymoon both in personal and cricketing terms. Now it is about to get real.