Putting Anomalies Behind: Resuming Normal Service in India’s Fourth Test

India's cricket team is not doomed despite media coverage of their loss to Australia in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy; criticisms of their performance are unsubstantiated.

Despite some Indian media coverage and certain online supporters wanting to paint a dismal picture, India’s cricket team is by no means doomed. Sure, they may have lost the third match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia in Indore; however, that loss of one game does not erase their earlier successes throughout the series thus far. Moreover, criticisms directed toward India’s batting, spinners, and lower order are personal and largely unsubstantiated. By spinning these stories of imminent disaster and potential ruin—caused by supposedly negligent management decisions like turning pitches—the media has distorted India’s true success and strength as a leading cricket team that can turn around any situation.

India’s success in Test cricket at home over the last decade has been a remarkable feat. With a leading series 2-1 and only 3 home test losses, they are certainly on the right track to win. While the recent discussion of what challenges India may face in the fourth test have been extensive, it is highly likely that any worries about their chances due to ‘shootout pitches’ or other disadvantages for battering are unwarranted. With India’s impressive record of home wins over the past decade, it appears that their clear advantage in playing on home soils greatly outweighs any presumed challenges.

India must remain focused if they want to do well in the Test series and not psych themselves out. After their loss in Indore, Rohit Sharma highlighted the unfair attention on the surface and asked why people aren’t giving credit to the stellar performances from players like Nathan Lyon, Cheteshwar Pujara and Usman Khawaja. It’s important for India to use this thought as a driving force and push themselves even further. If India can stay positive and hold an unwavering belief in their ability, then these individuals have every chance of playing integral roles and ensuring that India take home the victory when the dust settles.

It’s no wonder Indian cricket teams are so vocal in their condemnation of pitch conditions, given that the captains and coaches both place such importance on ensuring the playing surface is as tailored to their team’s strengths as possible. What’s remarkable is how different this approach is from Australian teams – rather than coming to the ground prepared already for whatever pitch awaits them, Indian Captains actively plan the kind of surface they wish to compete on. Of course, this being cricket, creating an ideal wicket isn’t an exact science; but with team officials like Rahul Dravid in attendance, it’s clear that every effort is made to provide players with conditions that best suit India’s style of play. It all serves as a reminder just how seriously India takes its cricket – something which is often lost amidst all debate over ground characteristics and other matters.

The consequence of an Indian team playing poorly on a particular surface has the potential to be extremely hard for captains to manage. The risk that the same pitfall may be repeated can cause feelings of doubt – will a fourth test look and feel like the third or should he push for something different? Furthermore, with international cricket bringing so much pressure, the idea of divested responsibility as seen in the Australian model might become increasingly attractive in order to shield these pressures which might indirectly affect their performance. On-field falls could then be attributed to a collective unit, keeping any captain’s individual reputation free from criticism.

India has dominated in home conditions, no matter what is thrown at them. Flat wickets or hazardous conditions- nothing stands in their way. Even in the rare circumstances that the other team is able to take a stand against them, it will ultimately be an aberration. Other teams have tried various strategies since Australia’s 2004 series win, and not one stuck for very long. Thus the sample size speaks for itself; it doesn’t matter whether India plays on flat tracks, or explosive ones- they usually come out on top.

The surprising emergence of spin as a major factor in India’s defeat over Australia could have something to do with its historical brilliance against spin dimming. Whereas someone like VVS Laxman had the capability to handle even tough turning tracks and excel, most current players don’t get the same sort of opportunity. Once they graduate from domestic first-class matches to higher levels, there is almost no chance for them to gain experience on turning pitches, barring some highly specialized situations like that faced by Cheteshwar Pujara. With the Ranji Trophy fielding 38 teams, many of whom lack competent infrastructure and work out through an amalgam of mediocrely skilled and short-term players, there is often little scope to develop key skills such as tackling spin and maintaining discipline when batting on rough surfaces. Though some cricketers manage to achieve their triple centuries nonetheless – a feat which five players have managed this in this very series – it doesn’t appear to be enough basis for Indian cricket team’s shining success against spin bowling.

With a lack of experience being the new norm, India’s squad continues to have significantly more prior experience in home conditions than any foreign visitors. After hosting multiple test-series each year, the team is well-prepared for what is thrown at them. Australia’s Peter Handscomb had adjusted his in-game approach over six long years before he could finally make a comeback onto Indian pitches. For India’s players, they have managed to bridge the gap between tours within just half of that time frame. Even though runs scored are not as high as expected, understandably on more challenging pitches, their ability to outscore any opponents remains unparalleled. Reverting back to normal statistics is an obvious outcome and should be expected when it comes to the current playing location of Ahmedabad. Although these facts may not be able to bask in the spotlight due to all the surrounding conversations generated by this peculiar anomaly – they still remain true and undeniable.

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