Kohli-Kumble combination helps India script a perfect season

The mind games boomeranged to hurt Australia this time, as the Indian team maintained dominance at home with Kumble’s guidance and Kohli’s exuberance.

The victorious team pose for a group photo in Dharamsala on Tuesday.   -  PTI

 

The mind games boomeranged to hurt Australia this time. It was a classic case of the adage ‘those who live by the sword, die by the sword’.

This bunch of Indian cricketers loves to give it back. In style too. The execution was carried out at the behest of Virat Kohli with Anil Kumble monitoring the process with his tactically supreme acumen. The 13-Test home season saw India enhance its cricketing stature with some compelling performances against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia.

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The preceding series, also highly competitive, did nothing to devalue the spirit of the game. However, against Australia, the acrimony was fanned by both teams, at times crossing the line permitted in sporting arena. They spared little thought for the young fans. The poor on-field behaviour was a sore point in an otherwise much-enjoyable fare.

Just a single loss in 13 matches spoke of India’s preparations. The challenge was in adapting to the conditions, given the fact that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had picked six new Test centres, starting with Indore against New Zealand and signing off with Dharamsala against Australia.

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“It was important for us to stay in a positive frame of mind,” said Kumble, pleased with the effort of his team, especially in the final Test where conditions favoured the visiting side.

The team settled into an effective mode with the batsmen backing the bowlers. The five-bowler theory worked in India’s favour and it was a major factor in influencing the induction of Kuldeep Yadav for the decider against Australia.

“The batsmen did well right through the series. The century that (Wriddhiman) Saha hit (at Ranchi) was a result of the focus on a collective show. Each man understood his role and contributed in key areas,” said Kumble.

The Kuldeep selection

Nothing highlighted India’s confidence better than the Kuldeep selection. The coach explained, “The bowling needed support because there were tired bodies. I am very impressed with Kuldeep.” It was creditable that the left-arm wrist-spinner was not intimidated in his first game by the likes of David Warner and Steve Smith. With his ‘chinaman’ style, he showcased his skills superbly and made a huge impact. “What I liked was he set his own field and bowled like a seasoned spinner,” Kumble added.

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The bold step to continue with five bowlers despite the absence of Kohli in the final Test from the playing eleven was again an indication of Kumble having such faith in his batsmen. “Their hunger and desire to do well was infectious,” It indeed was. That it worked well was again a reflection on the thoroughness that the team has developed in all the departments of the game.

Kumble, however, conceded that there was an area that needed to be addressed on priority. “The close-in catching has been a bit of a let down.” Rahane was an exception at slip and Cheteshwar Pujara at short leg was a source of inspiration.

Pujara emerging as the mainstay of Indian batting was a compliment to his ability to concentrate hard on his job. He may not be a crowd-puller but he would be the first choice of any captain for the solidity that he brings to the batting. An aggregate of 1316 runs with four centuries certainly established him at the top, followed by Kohli (1252), M. Vijay (771), Rahane (718) and K.L. Rahul (708).

Rahul’s consistency

Rahul’s consistency was India’s biggest gain from the season. However, the classy opener from Karnataka was, at times, guilty of poor shot-selection and would do well to understand his potential to serve Indian cricket for long. His towering presence in the top-order was a source of strength for Kohli and Pujara.

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“What a spell,” exclaimed Kapil Dev, when discussing the much-improved Umesh Yadav’s scorching burst here. The fast bowler demonstrated his resilience and endurance by playing in 12 of the 13 Tests and ending up with 30 wickets. The fact that he bowled 355.5 overs is a tribute to the splendid work done by the team physio Patrick Farhart.

Umesh complemented the two spinners — Ashwin and Jadeja — as India banked on the slow bowlers. Ashwin, thriving on spinner-friendly tracks, claimed 82 wickets and worked in tandem with Jadeja (71 wickets) to create winning situations.

At the end of the season of recognition, Indian cricket stood to gain from Kumble’s guidance and Kohli’s exuberance to get the best out of the team.