“I strongly want to see the Indian team dominate for at least five or six years. We certainly have the talent. We certainly have the ability. All that it will take is how you manage that and keep them together,” — Virat Kohli had set the record straight in the lead-up to his first Test series (one-off Test vs Bangladesh in 2015) as a full-time skipper.
Having taken control of the then No.7 ranked Test team in the world during the 2014/15 series in Australia, Kohli’s eyes were firmly on one thing and one thing only– taking India to the pinnacle of Test rankings, making it the envy of the world.
Kohli dreamt of making the Indian team the envy of the world.
After almost 5 years of dominance in Test cricket later, the champion cricketer will lead his side in the summit clash of the World Test Championship against New Zealand at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton on June 18 [weather permitting, of course]
The marquee encounter will kickstart a period of 8 months that will provide ample once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for Virat and his gladiators to further establish their legacy in the annals of Test cricket.
The World Test Championship final will be followed by a five-match rubber against England. Later this year, India will travel to South Africa with the hope of becoming the first team from the country to win a Test series in the rainbow nation.
Virat Kohli’s Team India has been the best Test team in the world in the last 5 years
India has been the best Test team in the world since the start of 2016. During the period, the Virat Kohli-led unit has won 35 out of the 55 Test matches that they have played and their W/L ratio of 2.916 is the best among all teams.
They have demolished everyone on home soil- 22 wins and 2 defeats in 28 games with a W/L ratio of 11- and even in overseas conditions, Kohli’s men have been the most competitive.
In 27 away Tests since 2016, India has won 13 and lost just 10, and once again their W/L ratio of 1.3 is the best among all nations. Kohli’s men achieved the No.1 Test ranking in October 2016 following a 3-0 series win against New Zealand on home soil, and just like what good teams do, they managed to create a stranglehold at the spot for the next 43 months.
They won in the West Indies in 2016 (2-0), demolished Sri Lanka (3-0) in 2017 but their most impressive achievement has certainly been the back-to-back triumphs against Australia Down Under.
India dominated an Australian team sans David Warner and Steve Smith to win their first series Down Under in 2018/19 and they went on to do an encore two winters later, albeit with an injury-ravaged team with nearly 9-10 first-choice players missing.
India’s brimming bench strength came to the fore in Australia last winter as the likes of Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Shubman Gill, Washington Sundar made the most of the opportunities that came their way while Rishabh Pant came of age with career-defining performances.
Riding high on an unbelievable Test series win in Australia; one that displayed the team’s resilience, grit, brimming bench strength, composure, tenacity, and of course, precocious skills to the hilt, Team India will now travel to the United Kingdom where they will have a golden chance to correct the wrongs of 2018.
But, there have been opportunities missed…
Virat Kohli’s men had a brilliant opportunity of becoming the first Indian team to beat South Africa (in South Africa) in a Test series and England for the first time since 2007 during the 2018 season.
But a combination of poor team selections, shoddy performances by the batting unit, and inability to drive home the advantage in crucial situations, ensured that while they competed in both of those rubbers, they ended up losing them 1-2 (in South Africa) and 1-4 (in England).
Three years later, another opportunity beckons for this group of men but before that, they will have to battle it out with New Zealand in the WTC final.
New Zealand was the only team to beat India during the World Test Championship cycle. The Kiwis have been the bogey team for India for a long time now.
Since the start of this century, India has suffered multiple heartbreaks at the hands of New Zealand in ICC events. They lost the Champions Trophy final in 2000; T20 World Cup fixtures in 2007 and 2016 besides losing the 2019 World Cup semi-final. The only ICC event fixture that Team India has won against New Zealand this century was the 2003 World Cup Super-6 rubber.
India's performance vs NZ in ICC events
1975 WC: LOST
1979 WC: LOST
1987 WC: WON
1987 WC: WON
1992 WC: LOST
1999 WC: LOST
2000 ICC CT: LOST
2003 WC: WON
2007 WT20: LOST
2016 WT20: LOST
2019 WC: LOST
— यश 🇮🇳 (@im_yash2307) June 17, 2021
History is certainly against Virat Kohli’s team but if they have to earn the right of being in the same league as Clive Lloyd’s all-conquering West Indian team of the 1980s or the great Australian side of the 2000s, they will have to ensure that they overcome the odds and find a way to script a series win in every condition and against all teams.
And, if you have followed this group of men in the last 5 years, you’d know well that they will do everything in their power to make it happen.
A legacy enhancing phase beckons…
That said, a one-off World Test Championship final shouldn’t be laid down as the marker for judging this team. Of course, one needs to perform in the knockouts and win titles to assert their true dominance. But, sport is a fickle beast.
And, as we have seen across in the grand finale of so many sporting world events, the best sides don’t always win the title. But, that shouldn’t mean that we shrug off years of consistent performances after 1 bad day [or in this case, one bad Test match].
This Indian team under Virat Kohli will be more remembered if they are able to win home and away against all Test-playing nations. Yes, a World Test Championship title will be a jewel in their crown and they’ll do everything in their power to win it, but even if they fail to win it, we, as fans, shouldn’t pull them down and overlook years of consistent performances.
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) June 17, 2021
As Virat Kohli recently said, the WTC final is not the end, it’s just a part of the journey; the journey towards becoming a dominant and ruthless juggernaut away from home.
Kohli’s men have tick-marked Australia twice. Can they do the same this time around in England and South Africa?
No one knows. But, what we know is they will do everything in their grasp to achieve it. And, we all will be watching, like we always do.