The away challenge: India's Test performances overseas

The familiar free-fall outside the Indian subcontinent has returned to haunt Virat Kohli’s men. In the two Tests of the current three-match series in South Africa, India lost a closely-fought game by 72 runs at Cape Town and then collapsed to a 135-run defeat in the next clash in Centurion. Trailing 0-2 and helming a unit searching for batting cohesion, skipper Kohli has to cope with a tough challenge. He sparkled with a 153 in the second Test but, as it used to happen during Sachin Tendulkar’s heyday in the 1990s, that proved to be a fine but futile effort in a lost cause. The stench of defeat is an unfamiliar odour for the national cricket team, with Kohli’s troops performing splendidly over the last two years. Yet, it would be prudent to accept that the cloak of invincibility was donned at home where rivals ranging from Australia to Bangladesh were humbled, and when India travelled, it was to secure overwhelming triumphs against weak opposition teams such as Sri Lanka and the West Indies. There is no denying the strengths of this team but it is a fact that since the last tour of Australia in the 2014-15 season, India largely played in its backyard and was never tested.

The reputations of a player and team are burnished by gritty performances abroad and against quality opposition. For instance, Rahul Dravid often conjures up visions of his mind-boggling batting in the 2003 Adelaide Test that India won. Kohli and company have an opportunity to script similar milestones in the next 12 months, in the Test series in England and Australia. Before that, the squad has to clean up the mess it finds itself within South Africa. The opening slots, often a merry-go-round between M. Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and K.L. Rahul, need to be sorted out. There is also the tumult over omitting vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, with the captain preferring Rohit Sharma. The latter may be exemplary in abridged versions, but in the longest format he has failed to ignite his luminous talent. It doesn’t help that Kohli has had to constantly shuffle his squad over the last 34 Tests. Coach Ravi Shastri has proclaimed that his wards can collectively do things that no other Indian team has done in the past — a recognition perhaps of its inherent talent. But India can excel in England and Australia only if the threats posed by their fast bowlers are fended off. The number one Test side is set to be asked some tough questions, and the way it responds to them will shape assessments of Kohli’s performance as a captain.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 11:05:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-away-challenge-indias-test-performances-overseas/article22475167.ece

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