India: We ‘Believe’!
The visitors arrive in the rainbow nation more confident than ever.
The acid test for India begins now! Team India have arrived in the Rainbow nation as the No.1 ranked Test team. They have been on a roll since August 2015, having won 9 consecutive series and they will be gunning to achieve a world record 10th successive series win when they take on South Africa in the upcoming ‘Freedom Series’. During this amazing run, they have defeated powerful teams like South Africa, England and Australia, which have seen them rise to the status of Top Dog in the Test arena. However most of these victories have been achieved in home conditions or in similar ones. These seem to have taken some of the sheen off their achievements and raised some questions as to whether they deserve the mantle of No.1 Test team, considering they have not had to contend with any of the top test playing nations in their own backyard. Those questions are sure to be answered in the coming 362 days.
Over the course of this year India will be on the road for most part, with tours to South Africa, England and Australia, in that order, marking their calendar, and this is where India’s standing as the world’s No.1 test team will be put to the test. A series win on any of these tours and a respectable performance in the other two will hopefully help them shed the tag of ‘tigers at home’ and vindicate their standing at the top of the Test table (assuming they are still there at the end of each series).
Virat Kohli has always been someone who has had tremendous belief in his abilities and in his will to win and through his leadership he has infused that same attitude in his team that has seen them rack up such an enviable record. And it is with this belief and winning attitude India have landed in Cape town. There have undoubtedly been better Indian teams to have arrived on South African shores but this team has something the other teams probably did not –‘belief’! (Barring the touring 2010 team) While previous Indian contingents gave you the impression that they came to compete, this team gives you the impression that they have come here to win! Where previous teams ‘hoped’ to win, this team ‘believes’ that they can!
This ‘belief’ though will carry them only so far. By arriving just a week before the Test series commences, and with no practice games under their belt, the Indian team have done themselves a huge disservice by not giving themselves enough time to acclimatize with the vastly different conditions, from back home, that they will encounter and thus appear highly under prepared for such a high profile series. They will be up against a powerful South African team and this lack of adequate preparation could come back to bite them.
The belief that they can win the series is however not unfounded. India arrived here with probably the best pace bowling attack they have ever had. Unlike on previous tours where they had one or two outstanding bowlers, they now have three outstanding paceman in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav, who are each match-winners in their own right. Add to that an additional experienced pacer in Ishant Sharma and two of the world’s best spinners in R.Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and you can see why this team and the nation are so hopeful. The batting – Vijay, Pujara, Rahane and Kohli have all got significant individual scores under their belt in overseas conditions. Add to that an explosive all-rounder in young Hardik Pandya and India present a well- balanced unit to counter their equally well balanced and powerful hosts. Their skills will have to be up to scratch and the batting and bowling units will have to fire collectively if India are to mount a serious challenge in the series.
Having said that they will be mentally up for it though. In Ravi Shastri –probably the best long term captain India never had, ala Shane Warne for Australia -they have a shrewd tactician and seasoned veteran. Together with the highly driven and ever aggressive captain Virat Kohli, they will ensure that the team is battle ready come January 5th. Make no mistake; the Mighty Proteas will come hard at them and if India are to compete then they will have to play out of their skins and continue to ‘believe’! And if they do manage to ‘tame the lion in its own den’, then it will go a long way in cementing their legacy as an ‘all conquering, all conditions’ outfit.