500 Tests: A phenomenal journey continues

The Indian Premier League has clearly benefited the country in the past decade, unearthing new talent and providing youngsters with the confidence to perform on the big stage. But India also has a strong four-day state competition and a five-day zonal competition that provides exposure to high-quality competitive cricket that is essential for player development.

"I was fortunate to play against many of their greatest players, the likes of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly and V. V. S. Laxman," the writer says. "They were part of a golden era for Indian cricket."   -  S. Subramanium

It’s been an amazing journey for Indian cricket, which is into its 500th Test after 84 years. The most exciting news for Indian cricket fans is that the future looks bright with a young team full of talent underpinned by a sound domestic structure and progressive development policies.

 

There have been so many great players along the way and I am not a fan of comparing players across generations. I was fortunate to play against many of their greatest players, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble and M. S. Dhoni.

They were part of Indian cricket’s golden era. The batting was so powerful that it was incredibly intimidating at times. We were fortunate to have Murali, the greatest off-spinner in the game’s history, but we were still overwhelmed on many occasions by the sheer quality of their batsmanship. On home soil they were especially dominant.

In the generation before this golden era there was Sunil Gavaskar, a master batsman, supremely skilful and as tough as old boots, and then Kapil Dev, one of the greatest all-rounders in the game’s history: supremely skilful with the ball, explosive with the bat, and a charismatic personality.

India did not dominate world cricket in the 1980s like they did in the post-Tendulkar era, but they still managed to win the 1983 World Cup, a remarkable triumph in English conditions, when you consider this was the era of the mighty West Indian team.

Going further back in history, there are many other legends and the likes of Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, Bishan Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna. They have all provided joy to cricket lovers around the world and the Indian fans can be truly proud of their achievements.

Today, of course, there is a new and inexperienced team that is looking forward to an exciting phase of development. There is though one great modern player and that is Virat Kohli. His development has been dramatic in the past few years and at this stage we can’t be sure about how many records he will claim.

This young team, built around the brilliance of Virat, has much to look forward to. With the sagacious Anil Kumble as their head coach, the Indians also have an ideal mentor to lead them on a great journey.

With the likes of K. L. Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara supporting Kohli in the batting, as well as R. Ashwin leading the bowling attack with the support of some lively young fast bowlers, India has an opportunity to build a strong all-round team that can also be competitive overseas. Winning in the West Indies is good but it was expected. The real challenge is winning in Australia, South Africa and England.

While India’s cricket board, the BCCI, may have a headline-grabbing and often controversial reputation of late when it comes to discussions about world cricket, they have been well-aware of the need for a strong national team and have been quietly investing in their players, infrastructure and domestic structure for years.

The Indian Premier League has clearly benefited the country in the past decade, unearthing new talent and providing youngsters with the confidence to perform on the big stage. But India also has a strong four-day state competition and a five-day zonal competition that provides exposure to high-quality competitive cricket that is essential for player development.

All this bodes well for India in the coming decades and I am sure we are going to see some new talents emerge on the scene to partner Virat and Ashwin.