The bench-strength of Indian cricket team


“Productivity isn’t everything,” wrote the economist Paul Krugman. “But in the long run, it’s almost everything.”

When one looks back at the Indian cricket team and run of form post the conclusion of the Indian Premier League (IPL), they have been nothing short of scintillating.

To begin with, an injury-ravaged India produced a stunning, come-from-behind 2-1 series in Australia to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The series win was orchestrated by stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane with youngsters like Mohammed Siraj, Shubman Gill, Washington Sundar, Rishabh Pant, Thangarasu Natarajan, etc producing match-winning contributions.

India lost the series opener in Adelaide after recording their lowest ever Test score of 36 all out, but fought back to win the next match in Melbourne. They then played out a thrilling draw in Sydney, before the Brisbane heist. And featured in the latter stages of the series were Indian Premier League (IPL) players.

It showcased one important aspect of that triumph. The depth of Indian cricket and a lot of credit must be given to the India Under-19, India ‘A’ setups and of course the IPL!
To top that up, India crushed Joe Root’s England inside three days in the fourth Test in Ahmedabad last week to clinch the series 3-1 and finish top of the Test Championship table ahead of New Zealand.

Despite the Indian cricket team’s sparkling series win against England, one must consider that Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja are still recovering from fractures suffered in Australia, which means the team is not at full strength. This speaks volumes about the ability of the team to draw inspiration and win despite now being at full strength. That team management could afford to rest Jasprit Bumrah for the final Test and still end up winning the Test convincingly paints a rosy picture for Indian cricket.

Indian cricket team: Strength in depth

Now consider this. The success of bowlers Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar and T Natarajan—with a combined experience of four Tests!—along with the batting exploits of 22-year-olds Shubman Gill (playing only his third Test) and Rishabh Pant in the last match evoked awe and admiration all over the cricket universe.

Natarajan and Sundar were on the touring party to Australia, just to be India’s net bowlers but chipped in with useful contributions on debut while paceman Shardul Thakur was also impressive.

Rishabh Pant is another name that has been making the news for all the right reasons.
Receiving flak from the section of fans on social media for his flamboyance, Pant left everyone gasping in awe when he reverse-flicked veteran fast bowler James Anderson for a six over the slips on his way to a match-winning 101 in the final Test, a shot dubbed “brave” by Root. In Australia too, the southpaw wicket-keeper played two blazing knocks of 93 and unbeaten 89.

Both of them came in different contexts but nonetheless were of great significance for Team India.

Indian cricket team: Role of Rahul Dravid

How this was possible for the Indian cricket team has been a subject of intrigue and intense debate since. Talent needs the right mix of exposure and coaching to be nurtured rightfully. Under the tutelage of Rahul Dravid, who now heads the National Cricket Association (NCA) as well, the India ‘A’ programme had been specifically designed to groom all the upcoming Under-19 talent in mainstream cricket to get them the taste of International cricket early in their careers.

Among young players on the Australia tour, Siraj had played 16 A matches, Saini 14, Hanuma Vihari 12, Mayank Agarwal 10, Gill eight, Prithvi Shaw five and Pant four, which is a very important factoid. It highlights that these rookies actually have had good exposure at the first-class level, including overseas.

Better infrastructure, coaching and training facilities have not only expanded the base of young cricketers manifold but fuelled ambition to aim higher.
This has been a driving force in creating a gigantic pool of talented players, who are ready to delve in the depths of International cricket and serve Indian cricket. It is thus safe to say that the future of Indian cricket lies in safe hands!