March 16, 2022: So India won yet another Test series at home with ridiculous ease and one can hear the cricket follower say “so what’s new”. Indeed, India have carried their dominance at home to dizzy, unprecedented heights. Every country is hard to beat at home but for teams visiting India it is virtually Mission Impossible. The last time India lost a Test series at home was to England in 2012 and before that it was to Australia in 2004 – the only two defeats in 21 years.
One must be careful however in analyzing the latest victory. In the 40 years since they played their first Test in India, Sri Lanka have yet to win a game. Out of 22 Tests they have lost 13 and drawn nine. Even when giants like Aravinda de Silva, Muthiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara were around they failed even to come close to winning a Test. And since these stalwarts retired Sri Lanka have not been able to find adequate replacements. These days Sri Lanka figure in the bottom half of the ICC rankings while India are second. Throw in the home advantage and it was easy to predict a lop-sided result at the start of the series. And so it came to be with India winning both Tests in three days, margins of an innings and 222 runs and 238 runs being proof of their overwhelming superiority.
It however speaks admirably of the quality of ruthlessness that India possess. When presented with weak opposition they roll over them in the shortest possible time and by the biggest possible margin. That is the hallmark of the great teams.
That said it is impossible to ignore the fact that there were plus points for India that in the long run could stand the team in very good stead. Shreyas Iyer grabbed his opportunities with both hands and should occupy the No 5 slot for a long while. The 27-year-old Mumbai born batsman impressed with a century on debut against New Zealand last year and there is little doubt he has the ideal temperament for the longest format of the game. What is eye catching is that he is a stroke playing batsman whatever the situation or the condition of the pitch. And though he has a fine record in limited overs cricket one feels that it is in Test cricket that he can be a tower of strength to the Indian middle order.
The prodigious talent of Rishabh Pant has been evident for some time and if he can be exasperating in the manner in which he sometimes gets out there is little doubt that he is a game turner and match winner. In the series against Sri Lanka one could see a bit of controlled aggression in his batting and that is a good augury. His swashbuckling batting sometimes camouflages the fact that he is a fine wicket keeper and is second to none while diving to take a catch or bringing off an eye-catching stumping.
Otherwise the series moved along predictable lines with the only concern being Virat Kohli’s prolonged barren run that has seen his career average plummet to below 50 for the first time in five years. Things are bound to turn for the better for a class batsman like him but fortunately the batting is strong enough to cover up this weakness even against tougher opposition. And then of course there is always the bench strength to fall back upon if required.
Regarding the bowling Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin emphasized that they are indispensable especially in home conditions and it is encouraging to have Axar Patel around. And what more can one say about Jasprit Bumrah? That at 28 he is already an all-time Indian great, that the stats associated with his name are of the eye rubbing and mind-boggling variety? He can only go from strength to strength and the sky is verily the limit for him.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal.)