From the populist point of view, Indian cricket is either in robust good health or in its death throes. There is seldom anything in between. This is precisely why the historic sweep over Australia on familiar terrain — while being a significant achievement — is not something that should give rise to triumphalism. Stiffer challenges await Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men on foreign soil when they journey to South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia over the next two years. But a 4-0 score-line — this is the first time India has won all four matches of a four-Test series — was crucial for a team that was gasping for breath after the 2-1 defeat at the hands of England at home earlier this season. The series also provided a lifeline to skipper Dhoni, who is now India’s most successful Test captain with 24 victories. The skipper’s destructive 224 when the first Test was in the balance at Chepauk was a huge turning point in the series; psychologically, the aggressive innings adversely impacted the Australian team. Gradually the Indian team gained in confidence and won the key moments of the duel by finding the right men for different situations. The selectors were rewarded for their boldness in dropping Gautam Gambhir ahead of the series and then axing Virender Sehwag after the first two Tests. Opener Murali Vijay was a gain with 430 runs at 61.42 including two hundreds; he displayed composure and the right technique. And the left-handed Shikhar Dhawan’s explosive 187 at Mohali — the quickest century by a debutant — saw Indian fans applauding the arrival of a new top-order batsman. The consistent Cheteshwar Pujara’s 419 runs at 83.80 were just rewards for his equanimity and solid strokes.
But then, these batsmen will face bigger tests away from the subcontinent on bouncy tracks — as, of course, will the spinners. The last few weeks, they called the shots on surfaces that assisted them. And the one in New Delhi was certainly not fit for Test cricket. However, credit must go to Ravichandran Ashwin for rightly depending on his off-spinner. His 29 wickets in four Tests at 20.10 confirmed his position as spin spearhead. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja’s accuracy and subtle variations in trajectory — he prised out 24 batsmen in four Tests at 17.45 — combined splendidly with Ashwin’s methods. If Jadeja can turn himself into a genuine Test class all-rounder in all conditions, it will be a big gain for Indian cricket. In the event, even as they celebrate, the Indian players would do well to remember that they will land in South Africa in November without having played any Test cricket for seven full months — hardly a tribute to the foresight of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.