India have not lost a Test yet in last year © AFP
India have not lost a Test yet in last year © AFP

Slow but steady, under the leadership of one of its most celebrated modern day cricketers, the Indian cricket team is surging. It is indeed too early to judge as to where Virat Kohli’s team stands compared to those his predecessors left. But the fact that in an extremely tough Test environment where cricket teams remain generally nearly invincible at home, Kohli’s team has stamped authority and showed tremendous improvement while playing overseas. Ravi Shastri had already spoken about giving this team some time on their last tour of Australia, and it can be said what the former Indian team director had said was right. ALSO READ – VVS Laxman: India’s win over West Indies ideal start for long home season

Looking back at it all, the seeds were sown during the Australian tour back in 2014-15, when MS Dhoni remained away from action for very long and Kohli showed glimpse of his leadership style. Team India played a fearless brand of cricket, Kohli led from the front with 4 centuries in as many Tests and the team proved it to Australia that their brand of cricket will not be intimidating for them as it had been for England the last Australian summer.

The previous summer, England had wilted against the same Mitchell Johnson against whom Kohli was especially fired up. Kohli did not hesitate in staring back at the left-arm tearaway pacer, and the short ball was invariably dealt with a lot of confidence and disdain, at the same time. Kohli made a statement at Adelaide and continued to walk the talk, and India proved that they were not the pushovers as it appeared before the start of the series.

Making a statement was one thing, but to stick with it was another. There have been many batsmen who made statements with one or two hundreds, but there was Kohli, leading with example and matching his peer, Steven Smith, on almost every single count. Kohli and Smith generally remain a part of the debate on who is the best batsman, but the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2014-15 proved that these two men were way ahead of Joe Root and Kane Williamson.

Detailing what Kohli did was important, because the team followed the belief which their captain brought in place. Australia did not intimidate the Indians, who ended a nearly four-month long tour with earning a semi-final spot in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

The loss to Sri Lanka chasing a moderate target jolted India in the first Test at Galle, who came back strong in the next 2 Tests to make it 2-1 in their favour. Beating Sri Lanka in their backyard is truly a big achievement, however frail they look given the fact that their rebuilding process is taking longer than expected. And how tough is it to accomplish a victory in the Sri Lankan yard is a challenge realised extremely well by the current Australian side. The formerly ranked world No. 1 surrendered to Sri Lanka without any fight, at the other hand, the Indian team came from behind to make it 2-1. Both were three-Test series.

When South Africa arrived at the Indian shores in late 2015, their motive was to make good starts in series across formats and keep banking on the momentum attained early. The T20I and ODI series presented South Africa the benefit of making winning starts, as the Indians looked clueless and a little derailed.

That India will win the four-Test Gandhi-Mandela Trophy 3-0 against the same set of South African players was not comprehended before the Test series began, but Kohli has his plans clear. On flat decks, he tested the technical abilities of the best of the South African lot, and surprisingly, everyone drooped. There was some dead-batting witnessed at the fag end of the series in New Delhi, but Ajinkya Rahane’s twin tons in the Test were too much for South Africa to reply back to.

Kohli’s team continued to march on unchallenged. In the recently-concluded four-Test series in the Caribbean, the 27-year-old Indian captain had a lot to celebrate. He set the tone with a maiden double century in Test cricket at Antigua — first for any Indian captain overseas — and his team romped home with a series win by 2-0. Kohli also became the first Indian skipper to win more than one Test in the Caribbean in the series, and deservingly for a while, his team flirted with the pleasure of being the best Test side in the world. ALSO READ – India vs West Indies: Performance review of Virat Kohli’s team

Kohli’s Team India is in a place where they have players who all have very long careers ahead of them. There is a lot of commotion taking place in regards to Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara, but the time to come — 13 Tests at home — will provide India ample chances to play their best batsmen and mark their authority in the home grounds.

What has truly been heartening for the Indian cricket team is the fact that the bowlers, often letting down the team overseas, have turned into an effective machinery home and away. And if the slot of wicketkeeper was any concern, Wriddhiman Saha put an end to the competition with splendid batting on the Caribbean sojourn.

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