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Awful Sri Lanka Handed Whitewash, Invincible India Keep Marching On

August 14, 2017

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Captain Kohli and his men have now developed their own style of winning test matches both at home and away. If West Indies’ test wins in the 80s were stamped with flamboyance and those of Australia at the beginning of this century were marked as all-round ruthlessness, then Team India’s test wins of late could be marked as an exemplary show of playing to their own script over and over again; though it might seem

a little boring from a neutral’s perspective.

India are far from being a boring team though. They have found a perfect mixture of some old-fashioned test cricketers with the best of the contemporary. It has explosiveness with composure and aggression with patience. It promotes unpredictability to the least and execution of routine at the fullest. And the result is 8 series wins in a row. If someone has to find a guide on how to win test matches, specially in the sub-continent, then the current Indian set-up would be the perfect author.

In test cricket, few things are spoken off with more importance than to bat big in the first innings. India seem to have made a habit out of it now with the help of the batting unit they have. There is more than one contender for several places and the healthy competition going between them gives India the bench-strength they want.

Talking about India, opening is the slot where the places have been up for grabs more often than not. Murali Vijay is an old-school classical test opener and is a perfect ally to an attacker like KL Rahul. Looking at the backup opening pair, that is Abhinav Mukund and Shikhar Dhawan, one can find the replicating traits there as well. With Pujara at No. 3, they have a plodder who bats every time like his life depended on it, very similar to someone like Rahul Dravid, one of the greatest of all time for that particular position and also the one who helped Pujara immensely on course of rediscovering himself as a test cricketer. In at No. 4, Virat Kohli is pure magic on his day; while next to him, Ajinkya Rahane, is capable of switching modes from an anchor to an attacker as needed. Players to follow feature useful contributors down the order in form of Ashwin and Saha. In Hardik Pandya India have found a much anticipated seaming all-rounder who gives the team the perfect balance. Most importantly, if one player fails then another steps in.

For example in the first test against Sri Lanka at Galle, Dhawan flattened the opposition with attacking strokes right from the outset. Mukund failed, but Pujara gained from Dhawan’s aggression and in shadows notched up yet another test ton. Kohli failed, but Rahane cashed in and with some combined effort from the lower order India piled on a plethora of 600 runs as their first innings total.

On the other hand, in the second innings Dhawan and Pujara failed, but those who didn’t do well in the first innings came to the party. Kohli slammed his 17th test century with Mukund scoring a career-best 81.

Then with the ball too India stuck to their script. First the seamers making some noise unsettling the Sri Lankan top order and then the spinners taking over. There wasn’t any need of thinking out of the box at all, even when Sri Lanka tried to eke out a fightback. There was no panicking from the visitors as they had their plans to work on and the runs to play with. When they could not take wickets they dried up the runs. To top it all there was hardly any drop in their intensity. And once they were able to get the break, they wiped out the Sri Lankan chances of coming back into the game. It all looked so inevitable as if India had sucked out the entire drama off the game.

The biggest change to have happened to this Indian team is that the understanding of the game has come a long way for them. The batsmen have become smarter and they know how to plan their innings. The bowlers have also become a lot more professional. They know which line to bowl, what field they want or if a partnership is going on then how to create opportunities and so on. All the players know their role very well and understand how test matches are won.

There was no need for any kind of intimidation, a breathtaking catch or even a turning track. With this much of understanding of their game and self-belief India’s process would eventually work anyways. It showed in this first test. And by playing to the same script in the next two matches they have now registered their first ever clean sweep away from home with the criteria of minimum 3 tests played. But all that seemed so unremarkable as India have found their so called boring routine of doing the things right. As long as they do that boring part right, they will be impossible to beat, at least in their own backyard and in the sub-continent.

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