Sachin-Like Kohli and Bradmanesque Ashwin Build India’s Best Team
One of the most successful and cerebral captains of modern cricket, Steve Waugh said that Ravichandran Ashwin is the Bradman of bowling, and it is still to sink into our popular consciousness. The Chennai lad has surpassed the greatest of the bowling legends of world cricket.
In terms of statistics he is better than Dennis Lillee, Shane Warne, Clarrie Grimmett, Michael Holding, Bill O'Reilly, Bishan Singh Bedi, BS Chandrasekhar, Anil Kumble, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Abdul Qadir, Richard Hadlee and Glenn McGrath.
Ashwin has captured 250 wickets in 45 test matches and he has taken the least number of matches among his competitors to get to the milestone.
Then, one of the greatest Indian cricketers Kapil Dev stated that Virat Kohli is the best batsman he has seen, adding that he is a combination of Sachin Tendulkar and Vivian Richards. A few years back, it was blasphemous to compare any Indian batsman with Sachin, who was considered the God of Cricket.
Are these two players part of the greatest Indian team ever?
Virat had a phenomenal 2016. He scored four double centuries in four consecutive series and bettered Bradman's record. Virat and Ashwin both are still at the peak of their careers and many peaks are yet to be scaled but Waugh and Kapil's comments on the two speak volumes about the team they are a part of.
The present team under the leadership of Virat Kohli is undefeated in the last 19 test matches and has won 15, which is an Indian record. After 23 Tests as captain, Kohli’s win record is next best after Steve Waugh who won 17 Tests.
Sourav Ganguly’s team had the best batting line up. The presence of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly could only be compared with either Bradman's team’s batting line up or with the great Clive Lloyd's team. Very few teams had ever been blessed with such talented batsmen in one team.
But this team could not be said to be the best ever because it did not have enough all-rounders and fire power in the lower order.
One can argue that Virat Kohli’s team is inferior in the batting department. But, I beg to differ. If today Kapil Dev finds Virat Kohli a shade better than Sachin, then Cheteshwar Pujara is equally dependable with a batting average of 49 runs/innings at number three in 43 Tests against Rahul’s 52 runs/innings in 162 Tests.
No doubt Sehwag was more destructive as an opener but the collective strength of Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul is not inferior to Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. VVS Laxman was a great batsman but Ajinkya Rahane is equally stylish, effective and dependable in a crisis. He is already averaging 48 runs/innings with 8 centuries in 33 Tests which is better than Laxman's career average of 45.97.
Then the current Test team is ably supported by Wriddhiman Saha, Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the lower order. Ashwin has scored four centuries, Saha has two and both have a batting average of 32 plus, which is very encouraging for an all-rounder. Jadeja has four half centuries to his name.
The presence of three dependable all-rounders in the team not only gives depth in batting but it also lets the team management have one extra bowler in the team. Ganguly and Dhoni did not have this luxury. Bowling all-rounders give additional resilience to Virat's team in comparison to his predecessors.
This team also has more options in fast bowling. It does not depend on one pace bowler. Srinath and Zaheer had to share the major burden. They did not have others firing from the other end. Now Virat can claim to have at least five fast bowlers of equal caliber who are consistently hitting the deck with a speed of 140 km/hrs. There is a healthy competition between Bumrah, Umesh, Shami, Bhuvneshwar and Ishant.
We must remember that Ashish Nehra is only playing limited over cricket and Barun Aron is mostly injured. Let's not forget there was a time when Indian team did not have a genuine medium pacer. After a few customary overs the spinners used to take charge of the bowling. Kapil's rise changed the scenario but a plethora of such good quality fast bowlers have been seen only in the last few years.
The most vital part of the present team is that they have the best bench strength India has ever had. For every place there is more than one option. In batting if Dhawan is out of form then KL Rahul fills the gap. He is such a talented batsman that he has already scored 199 runs in a Test innings.
If Pujara is not fit then Rohit Sharma is available. Ajinkya was replaced by Karun Nair who has a triple century under his belt. After Sehwag, Karun is the only batsman who has hit a triple hundred in an innings and he is sitting on the bench. When Saha was not fit Parthiv Patel filled the void.
Parthiv showed his competence as an opener as well. Don't forget the prodigious talent of Rishabh Pant who is knocking on the door and is the captain of the Delhi ODI team at the age of nineteen.
Like all the modern teams, Virat's team does not lag behind in the fielding department. This Indian side is the best, when it comes to fielding. Most of the players are very athletic and supremely fit.
In this part of the game, Kohli’s team trumps Ganguly’s team. It is a treat now to watch Indian fielders slide near the boundary and dive while standing closer to the wicket.
There have been great Indian sides in the past. Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni won World Cups for India. Ganguly instilled a killer instinct, taught us how to win and not be intimidated by the sledging of the Australians.
But if one has to choose the greatest ever Indian side, then it has to be the present Indian side under Virat Kohli.
The formidable batting strength, presence of powerful all-rounders and equally talented pace bowlers in bulk, a very strong bench strength, and supremely agile fielders make this team surpass all the previous Indian teams.
(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B)