While Virat Kohli led Indian cricket team would like to continue its dominance in the 2nd test match against the the not so formidable West Indies on 30 July, concerns about a long season ahead might have skipped their mind. And rightly so. But what is inevitable is that the team plays 13 home test matches this season, hosting New Zealand and England and then travels to Emgland to defend the Champions Trophy. Add 8 ODIs and 3 T20s to that list and we are looking at the busiest season India has had since 1979-1980.
India ususally has a busier schedule than its International counterparts, but this season is going to be a major test for a very young team with very little experience. In such a scenario, injuries are bound to happen and if India has to come out a winner at the end of the season, all the key players have to remain fit throughout. Biggest concerns will be India’s already patchy pace attack, which seems out of options every few months. Form is another major factor in the next few months to come. Though all the above mentioned matches would be happening at home, it means the team is expected to perform well. Home factors would provide the team with an edge, but making dust bowls did not work for India, the last time England toured. The duo of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann bamboozled the Indian batsmen on turfs where Alaistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen scored tons at will.
Four years down the line, only one of those names is coming to India but England have an established pace attack, spearheaded by Jimmy Andreson and Stuart Broad; both of whom can make the old old ball talk on Indian pitches. Indian spinners though, might have an edge this time around as, apart from Cook and the ever improving Joe Root, no English batsman has played spinners of calibre of Ashwin or Amit Mishra before. And if the first game against Pakistan is any example, they haven’t showed the temperament to do so either.
The Indian batting line up looks unsettled with Shikhar Dhawan flirting with form and the tail begining at no. 6/7. Ashwin might have had 3 test centuries but counting on him to win or save matches would be foolish. Kohli and Rahane along with Murali Vijay, form the core of the batting line up. Rohit Sharma should be in that list but his conversion from ODIs to tests has been less fruitful than Ravindra Jadeja’s entire career.
Before England, New Zealand tour India, and that might be a good contest, if NZ can work their magic without Brendon McCullum. Their pace attack is as formidable as any but they lack a strong player of spin bowling. Or a spinner, for that matter. Apart from Kane Williamson, the Kiwis have struggled against good bowlers on sub-continent pitches. They have Tim Southee and Trent Boult firing down with pace but on flat tracks without much help, they will have to be smarter bowlers. Their experience in the Indian Premier League might help them but test matches are a different ball game all together.
If and when India succesfully walks past these two giants, they still have to defend the ICC Champions Trophy. So let the long home season not fool anyone. Take the fatigue, form and injuries into concern and the year ahead will be more challenging than anything this team has faced yet.
And then there will be the “overseas” tours.