India were brilliant in the Caribbean and would like to continue their form at home as well © AFP
India were brilliant in the Caribbean and would like to continue their form at home as well © AFP

A few years ago, the Australian cricket team at its pomp remained unchallenged for most of the time it reigned. There were hardly a few instances when the rampant Australians would have had to dig deep and chalk out victories, more often than not their game play would be one-way. The opposition would succumb just at the sight of the Australians, and mental victories would be registered even before the start of the games. Nevertheless, it was back then. No team since then has been as dominant and ruthless, but as most of the top international teams have gone through their respective rebuilding phases, it is time the sport gets yet another dominating team. To get there, Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team may be far off, but laying down of the foundation work will start on Wednesday, against New Zealand.

Come to think of it: that Indian cricket team which would struggle in the conventional format of the game now has as many as 17 Tests lined up within mere nine months. Others would say, ‘it is too much of cricket’, but India are ready. The leadership in-charge are men with extreme talents, Kohli’s feats on the field and his attitude off it is exemplary, so is Anil Kumble, who was named India coach right before the start of this marathon. Four off these 17 Tests are done; India looked ruthless in the Caribbean, decimating the hapless West Indies side on most of the days and coming out on the top. Now, it is time for the Kiwis to face the might of the Indian cricket team, in its backyard, with their spinners licking their lips with a handful of wickets on offer and their batsmen raring to get the runs which they think they deserve.

It will be no exaggeration to say it could be one-way traffic for India against New Zealand, the same way as it used to be for that Australian team. Indian batsmen have showed form, and so have their bowlers. Ravichandran Ashwin went on to play the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) since returning from the Caribbean, a sign of that man, who completely assured of his skills, talent and existence. And if there were any doubts – not that there really were – Ravindra Jadeja celebrated return to home with two five-wicket hauls in the Duleep Trophy 2016-17. READ: India vs New Zealand: How much can India tinker with batting order?

Duleep Trophy 2016-17, India’s first-ever First-Class tournament with the pink cricket ball, had too much to offer. There were batsmen in fray who impressed with their run-scoring abilities, and then, there were bowlers who kept chipping away with wickets. And then, there was Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 166, 31 and a magnanimous 256 not out to sound out a warning so strong that New Zealand would certainly have gone back to whatever plans they would have made for the Indian run-machine.

Ashwin, Jadeja and Pujara’s current form makes India even more dangerous, since their key players across departments are in form and this is what teams that win need to have. The others, such as Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha and Kohli might have had some time off cricket, but these players will be up for the challenge when the opportunity arrives. READ: India vs New Zealand: Ravindra Jadeja’s opportunity to glory as all-rounder

The bowling department looks extremely solid, with India retaining most of their fast bowlers which were taken to the West Indies. Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav will be the fast bowlers available for this three-Test series, which begins at the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur on Wednesday. The spin department is heavy too, with Ashwin, Jadeja and Amit Mishra forming an extremely strong bowling attack which can deliver India a few victories in the months to come.

However, it cannot be said that this Indian cricket team is in a total comfort zone. There may be players who are in form and the build-up that has been favourable for the hosts, one factor which is of serious concern is that of their two star batsmen who have not been in either great form, or have done enough justice to their talent. Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have got nothing more than a lifeline with their selection for this full series, as these two batsmen will be closely watched by everyone across the field, and those who are off it as well. READ: Ashwin, Ishant and other top bowling spells for IND against NZ

Dhawan and Rohit may be forming an excellent opening pair for India in the limited-overs format, but these two batsmen are yet to get into their usual elements as far as Test cricket is concerned. Talking about their individual performances, it is Dhawan who has been comparatively better than Rohit, getting an occasional century and chipping in with crucial half-centuries. The same cannot be said for Rohit, who has struggled ever since the completion of his debut Test series, which was three years back, against West Indies at home. Rohit has not scored a Test century ever since Sachin Tendulkar retired, and the talented Mumbai batsman who is looked upon as one of the hopes in the batting department, not just in India but in the world, is running against time to prove his worth in the longest and the toughest format of the game.

If India struggle with these two batsmen, they will have to ponder for options and luckily, they do not have to look too far ahead. KL Rahul has done more than enough to command a place in the playing XI, and there is no reason India can keep Pujara away from the side especially since his return among the run-scorers despite having an ordinary tour of the Caribbean. If at any point in this three-Test series India find a need to make changes in their side, they will be having one or two batsmen ready to grab their opportunities. The West Indies series was more of a test of character for Saha than skill, as the Indian wicketkeeper-batsmen was facing the risk of being sidelined due to his lack of runs. Saha not only struck back with tremendous batting performances but also shut the chances for those who were challenging his position in the Indian Test side. READ: IND vs NZ: 5 memorable Tests

India will face some dilemma over their batting order, in case if Rohit is to be given chances and Dhawan too demanding a few. However, the idea to keep the in-form batsmen away will not be wise. Pujara looks a certainty at No. 3 spot, but the commotion in the Indian camp will certainly be over the opening partner for Vijay. Based on current form, Rahul gets in easily trumping Dhawan.

While they were in the West Indies, the Indian cricketers had the taste of what being at world No. 1 spot. Pakistan may look as the deserving one, but soon, with their splendid performances across departments, for which the Indian cricket team is set for, there could be an interesting tussle.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)