Lions at home, lambs abroad. That was the tagline given to the Indians when Virat Kohli took over the reins in Tests following M.S. Dhoni’s sudden retirement in Australia at the fag end of 2014.
Five years down the line, Kohli’s cavaliers have not only bolstered their reputation of being invincible at home — as was evident during the brutal assault on South Africa during the second Test here — but have also been much more competitive on away tours — if not successful — than their predecessors.
With the captain-coach combo of Kohli and Ravi Shastri at the helm for a majority of the last five years, the duo has been able to unite the group to cement India’s reputation as the No. 1 Test side.
Key to success
After decimating South Africa by an innings and 137 runs to seal the series with more than a day to spare, Kohli revealed the key to the team’s success.
“The good thing is when we started out as a group, we were at No. 7 (in Test ranking), and the only way was up. We laid down a few things saying that if you want to take Indian cricket forward, these are the things expected of each one of us.
“Work hard every day at practice, don’t come here and waste your time, contribute even at practice sessions, have a purposeful practice session and slowly those things will reflect in the results,” Kohli said at the post-match presser.
“We are all lucky to have the group of players that we have, to be honest. In the last three-four years, the bunch of guys have been amazing, those 20 players have been playing in and out, and it’s just amazing to see that hunger and passion to keep improving.”
No doubt the constant chopping and changing the combination — India hasn’t retained the same XI in a majority of Kohli’s 50 Tests as captain so far — hasn’t resulted in every individual responding positively.
The kind of insecurity that has arisen out of this policy has seen certain individuals losing their place.
A few others, especially specialist batsmen, were forced to change their techniques and approach in quest of “intent” expected of them.
But those with grit, gumption and obviously primary skill-sets have managed to leave the setbacks and emerge as true champions. R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh Yadav have all been dropped from the team at some point over the last two years.
But the trio ensured Kohli’s sterling double hundred was backed by handy contributions to ensure India sealed its 11th straight series at home in style.
Extra day’s break
With the bowlers dismissing South Africa twice in two days, India has got an additional day’s break.
It has resulted in virtually all the squad members — barring a couple of Test specialists — going back home for three nights before reassembling in Ranchi on Thursday.
Despite the series being sealed, with 40 points in the World Test Championship up for grabs, India will be waiting to pounce on the Proteas as they have done over the last fortnight.