Op-Ed: West Indies Is Passe, The Real ‘Test’ is in Australia

Coming as it does so soon after the disastrous England tour, the commanding victory against the West Indies by an innings and 272 runs at Rajkot today should have lifted the spirits of the Indian Test cricket fan (this writer certainly counts himself as one!), despondent after the merciless drubbing in Old Blighty. Instead, it has only served to remind one of the unflattering tag of ‘flat track bullies’ that has stuck to the Indian Test team for ages.

Back in familiar territory, the Test team has done what it does best: bulldoze rival teams into submission with both the batsmen and bowlers firing away on all cylinders. Three centuries and two near centuries in the lone innings played by the Indian team speak volumes about the dominance of our batsmen while Ashwin, Kuldeep, Jadeja & Co. bamboozled the hapless West Indian batsmen intent on hitting their way out of trouble – and failing miserably in the process.

Of course, one can always console himself that the England tour was much closer than it appeared on paper. After all, we did win one Test – and convincingly so – and ran them close in three others. Except at Lord’s, the Indian team did not exactly disgrace itself with Captain Kohli, who was in sublime form all through, amassing close to 600 runs in the series. One can also take heart from the fact that we performed more creditably in England than they did when they were here last in 2016. But as they say in Hindi, “Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander’. No one remembers how well a team fought before losing. It is the end result that matters. Champion teams, after all, win the key moments in a match more often than others. We lost almost all such moments and failed to show the spirit and spunk when it was needed the most. Considering that we were the No. 1 Test side before the series, the 3-1 score line came as a complete anti-climax. You may achieve the coveted No. 1 status by scheduling your fixture in such a way that you get to play a majority of Tests at home and travel only occasionally. But becoming a champion, all-conquering side like Clive Lloyd’s West Indies team or the Aussies under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting is a different ball game altogether. To become one, you need to win in unfamiliar conditions which, in India’s case, mean winning in England, Australia and South Africa. The last time we won against England in England was in 2007 while we have never won in Australia and South Africa. Clearly, we have a long way to go before we become a champion side.

It was pathetic to see the once great West Indies side failing to put even a semblance of fight in either innings. Time was when its battery of awe-inspiring fast bowlers bowled out Indian teams for paltry scores on wickets tailor-made to assist spin. If you bowled the Windies team out for 200, their ‘fearsome four’ would bowl you out for less. But more often than not, their swashbuckling batsmen would make merry at the expense of our bowlers. The nature of the wicket simply went out of equation as ‘The Invincibles’ of the 1970s, 80s and even the early 90s steamrolled teams across the world. The present team, in sharp contrast, appears to be a shadow of the great West Indian sides of the past. The way their batsmen went about chancing their arms in both innings, getting bowled out for less than 200 on both occasions, suggested they had reconciled to the inevitable. They looked a beaten side from the word go and look destined for another sound thrashing in the second and last Test.

The focus is now on the Australia tour this winter (which happens to be summer Down Under!). On paper, India have everything going for them. The batsmen are scoring runs. The opening muddle has been sorted out – at least for now – with the prodigiously talented Prithvi Shaw announcing his arrival with an emphatic century on debut. The bowling unit, which was the only bright spot during an otherwise disappointing tour of England, will be reinforced further with Bhuvneswar Kumar all set to join the squad. On its part, the Kangaroos look the weakest side in ages after the ball tampering scandal that saw their two best batsmen, Steve Smith and David Warner, banned for a year for their role in the incident.

But make no mistake. It would not be the cakewalk that many fans believe it would be in the absence of their star players. Like all other teams, the Aussies are ‘tigers’ in their den and would fight every inch of the way against a side that is yet to win a series there. One only has to recall how the Kangaroos, depleted by the absence of almost all their top players for joining Kerry Packer, fought spiritedly under Bobby Simpson, who was recalled from retirement by a desperate Australian Cricket Board at the age of 42, to win the series 3-2 in 1977-78.

If India could at least reverse the score against the Kangaroos in the upcoming series, they would have done a commendable job. If they cave in – as they have done on every tour Down Under before and since that tour – the catcalls of ‘flat track bullies’ would return to haunt the side.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)