Virat Kohli’s Team India were No. 1 in the ICC test rankings for a week or so. Much like songs dropping off Billboard, they have been busted down to No. 2. But it won’t be long before they hit the top spot again not only because they have a long home season from here on but also because they have the makings of a good combination. In keeping with the most modern trend of home conditions giving hosts every advantage, the results can only be favourable for India in the coming months.
Beating the West Indies in the Caribbean is a kind of minimum qualification these days for earning the higher rating which comes with away wins and the Indians made some kind of history in winning two Tests in a series out there. If not for rain washing out the final Test, the result could have been 3-0. Of course, great credit went to the batsman Roston Chase who in a singular innings saved the second Test in Kingston in a miraculous rearguard action ensuring that all talk of ‘whitewash’ or ‘blackwash’ was washed away in Jamaica itself.
The Aussies’ weakness on turning tracks after their best men retired are too well known. Their inability to push the final frontier as men like Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist constantly endeavoured to do in the new millennium has led to the current churning among the teams at the top of the totem pole in the mid ’10s. Sri Lanka’s comprehensive 3-0 performance has led to this latest twist to the table. As the rankings algorithm could very much be in India’s favour in a long home season, there is little to complain about the manner in which the rankings are run.
Seeing Pakistan at the top — for the first ever time — despite their not ever being able to play at home ever since terrorists opened fire on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 - should be for the good of the game. A competitive Pakistan side does make the cricket pot boil. There is one rider though and that is they should play their cricket true to form all the time, which their record in the past does not suggest. And matters came to a head when an educated skipper thought of as bringing great value to their national team, was involved in a spot-fixing scam and went to jail along with the most promising young pace bowler.
Pakistan are a bowling team capable of delivering in any format of the game, but their batting can be hugely suspect. With two seniors in Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan dropping anchor in good batting conditions in sunny July-August in England, Pakistan were able to force a 2-2 draw in the series after having gone ahead at the very start at Lord’s, a ground notoriously unfavourable to the home side, but only because conditions can favour bowlers, particularly in the first part of the season when clouds hover and the moisture content is high in the pitch and surroundings. Their two London wins also make the city a welcoming cosmopolitan place where visiting cricketers feel most at home.
Team India can count all the positives from the visit to the Caribbean in the huge learning curve they are on. Ravichandran Ashwin’s performances with ball and bat were crucial to the final result. The win in the third Test may was owed as much to the fine recovery shaped by Ashwin and Saha as the swing bowling of the returning Bhuvneshwar Kumar who proved moving the ball around is an asset that pays dividend no matter what the condition or pace of the pitch is. His presence gives Team India a more complete look. With such good competitors in the mix, we can expect Team India to be a force to be reckoned with in any conditions except perhaps in Australia and South Africa where brute pace bowling is often the tilting factor. But that can wait as Team India is all set to recapture the No. 1 ranking in the next few months.