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India a ruthless beast, but biggest test yet to come

India have climbed plenty of mountains the past four years, but there's one yet to be summited.


Over the past three to four years, India have been very successful. They have won their last eight test series despite undergoing a difficult change in Head Coach from Anil Kumble to Ravi Shastri.

Improving under the new coach

To that point, given India’s latest result, it seems as if they’ve gotten better with the change at the top. This week, they completed a series sweep in Sri Lanka, the last two wins coming with innings victories.

Captain Virat Kohli thinks so, saying, “I think attitude has kept people hungry, you won’t see reckless cricket regardless of who we are playing.

“We want to consolidate every situation, we want to make sure we’re correcting things along the journey, and that’s the mindset we want to take forward also. You can’t raise or lower your intensity according to your opposition.”

Kohli’s quotes echo a focus and intensity he has long been famous for and has since moulded his team to, even more so following the exit of the more relaxed Kumble.

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Kohli is one of the best captains we have in the sport, and behind every great captain lies a great team. Finally, Kohli has that team his captaincy is worthy of.

Kohli engineers success

Putting this most recent test in Kandy under the microscope, Kohli engineered a win without contributing a big innings with the bat. At the start of this winning run that was thought to be an impossibility.

Highlights of India’s batting in this series included Hardik Pandya playing in his third test. The 23-year-old’s 96-ball 108 at the bottom of the order took the total from strong to unassailable and putting India in a position to win the match.

Also falling into that match-winning category is Player of the Series Shikhar Dhawan, now one of the premier opening batsmen in the world. 

Before the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series in Australia, Dhawan’s fledging test career seemed to be struggling to progress from the romantic, free-wheeling batting he produced in One Day Internationals. 

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Since then, and especially over the past 12 months, Dhawan has been invigorated by the maniacal concentration his captain leads with each day and has produced the form his talent is worthy of.

Just this series, ‘Gabbar’ finally topped the once seemingly unbeatable 187 he produced on test debut against Australia in 2013 in Chandigarh, with 190 against SL in Galle.

The old and new performing well

Also exceptional were the old (Ravichandran Ashwin, 30), and the new (Kuldeep Yadav, 22), who spun their opponents into oblivion with six and five wickets, respectively.

There is one asterisk that punctuates India’s dominance of test cricket over the past few seasons, and it’s less of a mark of shame, and more of a recognition of what no nation seems able to do these days.

In their undefeated run that stretches back to the Border-Gavaskar Trophy of 2014-15, India have played and won just one test series outside of Asia, defeating the West Indies 2-0.

For some context, the only one of the “big four” nations to have won a test series outside their own continent in the past 12 months is South Africa, who won in New Zealand and Australia over the new year.

They too, recently lost their last overseas test series, losing to England 3-1. 

For India, though, this is a mark that stretches back far further than any of the other nations. Luckily, they have four other nations on their continent in which they can travel to and enjoy success against.

However, this does not change that their last time in Australia they lost (2-0, 2015), their last time in South Africa, they lost (1-0, 2014), and their last time in England, they lost (3-1, 2014).

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This is a mark on India’s record they cannot “outlast” or “outplay”. This is a fact they have to overcome themselves and do so by travelling to a different part of the world, adapting, playing, and winning.

India in fine form

For the team Kohli boasts, it should be no problem, and maybe it wouldn’t be. They are in impressive form, and would rather not wait until November to next play Test cricket.

However, when that 11th month of the year approaches, they will fly to South Africa, to attempt what they haven’t done since 2007—beat one of the big four away from home. 

That 1-0 victory in England was secured with the help of two draws either side of an Indian seven-wicket victory in Nottingham. 

The victory came thanks to nine wickets from Zaheer Khan and six from the now-infamous Anil Kumble, as well as five first innings 50s, including 91 from Sachin Tendulkar.

It was a team performance for the ages, and one this current Indian crop will need to channel to replicate, or better. 

Over the past four years, Virat Kohli has prepared his team meticulously for a moment like this to arrive. In November, it will arrive, and it will be fascinating to see how the current world’s best respond.

How will Kohli’s India fare in the short to mid-term? Let us know in the comments below.

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Myles Stedman

Journalist at Rugby.com.au. NEAFL media team. Contributor at Zero Tackle, Green and Gold Rugby, 16 Wins a Ring, The Sixer Sense via FanSided, Last Word on Hockey and cover32.

India a ruthless beast, but biggest test yet to come

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