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India vs Australia | Stiffer Challenges Await as Kohli's India Savour Historic Triumph

The relatively stiffer challenges will follow in 2020; India will play two Tests in New Zealand in the beginning of the year and end it with another four-Test series in Australia.

Karthik Lakshmanan |Cricketnext.com |January 8, 2019, 3:12 PM IST
India vs Australia | Stiffer Challenges Await as Kohli's India Savour Historic Triumph

"Virat and this team will win more games than me. I feel it will be the most successful team ever. I firmly believe that this will be the team that will rewrite history."

These were the words of MS Dhoni in his first press conference after he handed over captaincy across formats to Virat Kohli in January 2017.

Two years on, one part of the statement has come true. Kohli’s India have rewritten history, becoming the first team from the country to win a Test series in Australia. Now, on to the next task: become the most successful team, and dominate.

The series win in Australia was a culmination of all the efforts that had gone in the direction of ‘overseas wins’ over the last year. India went to South Africa, returned with what-ifs and a scoreline of 1-2. India went to England, lost 1-4, but returned with the same what-ifs. Misreading pitches, picking wrong personnel and general ineptitude in tough conditions were the theme of the two tours. It all changed in Australia; the only what-if they’ll return with is the lost opportunity to make it 3-1 due to the Sydney rain.

The win could well be the start of a dream run for India, at least in the immediate future. And the timing couldn’t have been better, for the ICC World Test championship is set to begin this year. India are scheduled to play two Tests in West Indies, three at home against South Africa and two at home against Bangladesh in the rest of the year. Given the performances of all these sides involved in the respective conditions, India will feel they have a great chance to dominate and set the tone for the future.

The relatively stiffer challenges will follow in 2020; India will play two Tests in New Zealand in the beginning of the year and end it with another four-Test series in Australia.

One important factor that should make oppositions wary is the average age of the Indian side. Kohli himself just turned 30 recently. The other two senior batsmen – Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane – are 30 as well, and should ideally have their best batting years in the near future. Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari are in their mid 20s, while Rishabh Pant is just 21. Prithvi Shaw, who will be a part of the unit too, is just 19.

(Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The oldest member of the side is Murali Vijay at 34, and he is unlikely to get a long run given his poor form. What it means is that the batting, as is often the case with India, is sorted. The remaining Tests in the year will help the relative newcomers settle in for stiffer challenges.

The bigger challenge for India, historically, has been the bowling. There have been the likes of Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan but this is the first time India have a complete pace unit. The promising sign is that here too, India seem to have options for the long run. Ishant Sharma is 30, Umesh Yadav is 31. Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are 28. Jasprit Bumrah, the talk of the town, is just 25.

The onus now is on India to preserve them for the long run. How they handle Bumrah in particular will be a key factor in their Test fortunes; he’s the only bowler in the side to be guaranteed a place in the XI across formats.

Given the Tests in the rest of the year are likely to be played on spin-friendly conditions; R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav will take the bulk of the wickets, which means the pacers can be rotated around. It means Umesh could get more games, and India might well use the chance to groom the next generation of pacers too. Mohammed Siraj, Rajneesh Gurbani, Navdeep Saini and Deepak Chahar are next in line, making it rare times when India have plenty of pace options.

What India will do with the spin combination will be interesting to watch out for. Kuldeep is emerging as a bright talent in Tests too – Sachin Tendulkar named him, and Pant, as two talents to look out for. Will India look to groom a new spinner apart from the Ashwin-Jadeja-Kuldeep trio? Ashwin’s proneness to injuries – he’ll be 34 when India tour Australia next for Tests – could get India thinking.

For now, though, India are sorted. Kohli’s men have all the ingredients needed to dominate the world.

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