That’s the day India unearthed all the talent that was available and then fully capitalised by selecting their best team. That time is well and truly upon the rest of the cricket world as India have showcased their amazing depth in the last few months.
The emergence of such talents as Shubman Gill, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar, T Natarajan and Axar Patel would have been monumental if it had happened in the space of three years, let alone just three months as it did. And when you consider that Shardul Thakur excelled in just his second game and the ebullient Rishabh Pant was an international match-winner before his 20th appearance, it really is a rosy picture.
A rosy picture, that is, if you’re an Indian fan; for the rest of the cricket world, it strikes a note of fear.
It’s even more imposing when you consider that of those debutants, only Gill and possibly Siraj would play when every player is available for selection.
The picture attains a veritable glow when you consider that Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Prasidh Krishna and Krunal Pandya have all made successful white-ball debuts against England.
An abundance of talent like this is reminiscent of West Indies and Australia during dominant periods when they overflowed with good players, many of whom struggled to make the first XI.
In West Indies’ case it was mainly a surplus of fast bowlers during a dominant span that kept serious pacemen like Wayne Daniel, Sylvester Clarke, Winston Davis, Patrick Patterson and Ezra Moseley from having substantial Test careers. When Australia were dominating at the turn of the century, capable batsmen like Matthew Elliott, Darren Lehmann, Stuart Law, Martin Love, and in the early part of the period, even Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, struggled to find a permanent place.
Surpluses like that provide selectors with a belly ache from gorging, but it’s a whole lot better than the pain caused by searching a bare larder for morsels.
Manjrekar: “Excited about India’s talent pool”
Not only are India now in the enviable position of having a surplus of young talent but the candidates are also highly competitive cricketers.
Long gone are the days when some Indian players would quietly go up to an opponent and confess, “You are my idol.” As one former Indian cricketer told me, “There used to be players who just wanted to own the sweater and cap.” There’s also no chance you’d hear in the current Indian dressing room the utterance, “Why me?” as happened when a Test team was announced during the 1977-78 Australian tour.
It was MS Dhoni, born in Ranchi, whose success provided the inspiration for young cricketers from outlying areas to suddenly believe they could play for India. The belligerent Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy style encouraged all players in the Indian team to believe they were the equal of their opponents. This belief grew under the guidance of Dhoni, followed by the highly emotive leadership of Virat Kohli.
India’s recent successes in Australia – particularly the latest one – have only reinforced the players’ belief in their ability to win under any circumstances. In an era where teams struggle overseas, India now have the depth of talent to alter that pattern. No longer can opponents afford to say, when India are on their doorstep, “Just pick a string of fast bowlers with long run-ups and the series will be ours.”
Can India replicate the dominant periods of West Indies and Australia? It’s a much more difficult proposition these days, with an extra form of the game, a frightful schedule, and the riches of the IPL, not to mention a pandemic to circumnavigate.
However, India have finally got the equation right and as long as they avoid the pitfalls often associated with continuing success, they are better equipped than any team to produce an era of dominance. The rest of the cricketing world beware.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist