India's Test Juggernaut at Home a Result of Well-rounded Bowling Complemented by Imperious Batting

Rohit Sharma in action
Rohit Sharma in action
©REUTERS
 

Team India, with 300 points, is now miles ahead of any other opposition in the ICC Test Championship charts. And, with them possessing an all-weather attack, this juggernaut does not look likely to halt any time soon.

It might sound a bit odd to say for a cricketing nation which has produced some of the batting greats of all time, but it was the Indian batting which was proving to be their Achilles Heel in the recent times in Test cricket.

It is now for over two years that India have stacked up the bowling acumen to trouble their opposition in any condition. They have always possessed quality spinners who do their job overseas and devastate the opposition in home conditions.

India's previous batting woes in Tests

All through India's overseas Test jaunt of 2017-18, where they were beaten by South Africa and England, it had become more and more evident that the existing crop of Indian batsmen were fading away and a new batch needed to arrive.

It duly did with Prithvi Shaw impressing with his flamboyant batting in the two-match home Test series against West Indies. Unfortunately, he injured himself on India's tour of Australia and could not make the XI.

This was an opportunity for Mayank Agarwal, who had been waiting in the wings for the longest time to showcase his potential. India struggled to find Agarwal a permanent partner with both KL Rahul and Murali Vijay faltering Down Under. Even Hanuma Vihari was tried as a stop-gap measure but that obviously wasn't an option for the long haul.

Enter Rohit Sharma

With KL Rahul's poor form persisting on India's tour of West Indies and Prithvi Shaw being banned retrospectively after failing a dope test, the opportunity fell in the lap of Rohit Sharma.

There were doubts over the stylish batsman's technique, with him having failed previously in Test cricket, but Rohit Sharma was determined to change it around in the three-match home series against South Africa.

Just three test matches old, the duo of Agarwal and Sharma, now averages 93.75, the highest for any Indian opening pair in a series after Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag’s 100.25 against New Zealand in 2010. If your argument is that these runs were made on featherbeds, have a look at the batting average of the opposition and you shall stand corrected. South Africa’s opening partnership in the three-match series averaged a paltry 4.83.

Rohit and Agarwal ended as the first and third in the list of leading run-scorers in the series. In fact, Rohit Sharma has scored the most runs in the ongoing ICC World Test Championship cycle of 2019-2021 after Steve Smith, with 529 runs from three matches at an average of over 130 with two centuries and a double century. What's even more exciting is that his runs have come at an impactful strike rate of 77.45, highest by any batsman in the ongoing cycle, other than Colin De Grandhomme, who has played only one inning.

Indian batting corrects its course

The juggernaut, which began with a marathon 317-run opening stand in the first innings of the opening Test lasted throughout the series, with South African bowlers seeming short of ways to get the Indian batsmen out.

After proving their mettle on the tour of Australia, the Indian batsmen from number 1-7 amassed 1793 runs from 26 innings in the series against South Africa at an average of over 80, with them taking 127 balls for each dismissal. This included 7 centuries and 5 half-centuries and the runs came at a strike rate of almost 65, which helped to move the game along.

On the contrary, out of the cumulative 42 South African innings, their batsmen manage 920 runs at an average of 23 and a strike rate of 50 with each wicket lasting for just 45 deliveries.

An all-weather attack

The Indian bowlers played their part, with the Indian spinners snapping up 32 wickets at an average of 27.18 and a strike rate of 59.9. This is nothing unusual for the hosts but what was even more striking was that the Indian seamers, who are generally the support cast in home conditions, rose to the occasion by bagging 26 wickets in the series at an average of 17.50 and a strike rate of 35.2.

The team has been dominant at home and has not lost a series in almost seven years. These include 33 matches with India sporting a terrific win rate of 81% in home games. They hold an unprecedented record of 11 consecutive Test wins at home and would now desperately want to pass the litmus test of overseas Tests in order to assume cult status.

Team India, with 300 points, is now miles ahead of any other opposition in the ICC Test Championship charts. And, with them possessing an all-weather attack, this juggernaut does not look likely to halt any time soon. 

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