2019 in review

Cricket in 2019: India cuts a dashing figure on the world Test stage, thanks to Virat Kohli

The dazzlers: Team India has made ‘Playing to win every Test’ its magic mantra.

The dazzlers: Team India has made ‘Playing to win every Test’ its magic mantra.   | Photo Credit: K. R. DEEPAK

Brains trust’s focus on the importance of workload management pays dividends

Virat Kohli’s figure looms large in the Indian dressing room. His consistency and exacting fitness regime kept the team war-ready through the year.

Team to beat

India, as asserted by coach Ravi Shastri, played some “fantastic” cricket to justify its new-found reputation as the combination to “beat.”

India’s performance in Tests — seven wins in eight matches — highlighted the focus on the importance of workload management that has propelled the team into a zone of perfect returns for the effort put in.

Cricket in 2019: India cuts a dashing figure on the world Test stage, thanks to Virat Kohli

“We are now playing to win every Test. The players have realised that only performance and nothing else is going to take them forward. There is no place for reputation. This is a different team from what you have known in the past. The fitness levels and the commitment have created a terrific work culture in the team,” Shastri told The Hindu.

The India-A pipeline has delivered results with some smaller decisions taken in the background cementing the faith of the players in the National selectors.

Shreyas Iyer making a strong comeback in ODIs and Shivam Dube gaining the tag of an all-rounder prove the excellent rapport between the selectors and the team management.

The No. 4 slot

The struggle for the No. 4 slot in ODI was settled with Shreyas excelling in the new role. Shreyas was seen as the best batsman by the team management to adapt to the challenge.

So was Dube, who went through rigorous strength training for six months in the run-up to his international debut.

The workload management is a complex process but aims at keeping players fresh.

“There is not a player who can be found wanting in any format. International cricket demands intense training and this was evident in the way we played in 2019. We ought to have won the Sydney Test (at the beginning of the year) but rain took away the last day’s play.

“In all other matches, India played dominating cricket. Critics said it was a second-string South Africa that we beat, but the same team hurt England,” asserted Shastri.

Amazing pace

The workload management meant the Test fast bowling unit — Mohammad Shami (33 wickets), Ishant Sharma (25 wkts) and Umesh Yadav (23) — was at peak fitness for critical matches. “They were amazing,” said Shastri.

The team also gained from the consistency of Mayank Agarwal, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma in Tests and K.L. Rahul in ODIs.

Rohit was the performer of the year amassing 2,442 runs across all three formats — three centuries in Tests and seven in ODIs establishing him as the batsman to fear.

He has to be battle-ready even though he has been rested for the ODI series against Sri Lanka with strengthening coach Nick Webb putting him through a punishing training block.

The year 2019 was marked by key Indian players maintaining top fitness due to the “professionalism” seen in the way the team management, selectors, physios and the strengthening coaches functioned.

Each player was monitored closely and it reflected in the approach of the team — unbeaten run in Tests; 19 wins in 28 ODIs and nine in 16 T20s.

“We had a wonderful World Cup but for those 15 painful minutes. There was little to complain even though I would say we have to push ourselves in the T20 format,” noted Shastri.

As Shastri insisted, the team was focused on a taxing 2020 with Tests in New Zealand and Australia and the T20 World Cup.

“We are ready for all challenges. There is some outstanding talent waiting to conquer the world of cricket,” the India coach concluded.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:08:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/cricket-in-2019-india-cuts-a-dashing-figure-on-the-world-test-stage-thanks-to-virat-kohli/article30436004.ece

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