By Karthik Parimal
As skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni got down on his knee to hoist New Zealand’s Jeetan Patel over the ropes, India registered a comfortable 2-0 victory. Not many Indian supporters would prefer to revel in this triumphright away, thanks to the morbid memories of the 0-8 thumping away from home a few months ago. While it’s true that the only possible way the wounds can be healed is by putting up an improved performance overseas, one cannot deny the fact that India has found a few able players during the course of this series with the potential to deliver even under strenuous circumstances.
One such player has been Cheteshwar Pujara. He was touted to be the man capable of filling the void created by the exit of Rahul Dravid, but placing such untoward expectations on Pujara, especially when the lad is just five Tests old, is hugely unfair. Having said that, he is one of the very few modern cricketers who prefer to play by the textbook. His century in the first innings of the first Test gave us all a glimpse of the potential he possesses, while his 48 on the fourth innings at Bangalore came while India chased down a formidable 261 in the second Test backed up his calibre.
He was dismissed cheaply during the first innings of the second Test, but there was nothing uncertain about the shot he played. There were no half-measures.
The other player who spun his way back into the Indian side is Pragyan Ojha. Whenever India has played away from home, Ravichandran Ashwin has been the team’s foremost choice in the spin department. Although Ojha manages to find a spot during home matches on turning wickets alongside Ashwin, the former is very vulnerable to be dispensed in favour of some other spinner. But after this series, having scalped 13 wickets in two Tests, Ojha has ensured that he remains on the radar of the captain and the selectors. Not only was Ojha a fine support to Ashwin, busy picking up wickets from the other end throughout the series, he also rose to the occasion when the other bowlers chips were ineffective.
A lot was spoken during recent times of how incompetent India’s spin unit had become after Anil Kumble hung his boots. But Ashwin and Ojha bring hope. Between them, the duo struck 31 out of 40 times in the just-concluded Test series. You can’t expect your spinners to come up with a better display. New Zealand’s batting was fragile, they were expected to get steamrolled, and the duo diligently ensured that.
Not only has Ashwin created havoc with the ball, he continues to frustrate the opposition with some valuable knocks lower down the order. None of his innings can be considered a flash in the pan, and the confidence he exuded when batting alongside tail-ender UmeshYadav during the first innings of the Bangalore Test shows exactly how much he values himself as a batsman. The two put on 33 for the last wicket and it did diminish New Zealand’s lead considerably. That, probably, was the turning point of the game.
Apart from the above-mentioned positives, Virat Kohli has been resplendent and is in a league of his own. It’s not vivid to the naked eye yet, but Kohli has shouldered tremendous responsibility and has negated the pinch that would have otherwise been felt with the exit of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Without his frequent blitzkriegs, India’s struggles would have compounded. He could possibly be the new pillar in the Indian middle-order, ensuring that the legacy of its sturdiness continues.
All in all, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Indian Test team, as there are players capable and willing to step up to the plate. The litmus test will of course be when they take on tougher opponents like South Africa, England and Australia – especially on overseas soil. But there is no dearth of talent or lack of reserves. With proper planning and grooming, this team can shape up to be a force to reckon with in the Test arena once again.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)