India and Virat Kohli, in the selfsame words of the skipper, have nothing to prove. They have had nothing to prove since their triumph in Australia at the start of this year. Any onlooker, be they seasoned cricketing connoisseur or sporadic spectator, can tell that they and New Zealand have carved a significant chasm bewteen themselves and the rest of the world’s Test teams.
Yet it seems every time Kohli’s side step out onto the field, they are driven by some sort of injustice, by an unyielding desire to silence a doubter. It is perhaps this attitude that best defines them, a strength of heart that thrives so vivdly under the longest format’s most intense of spotlights. It is thanks to such that they turned the fourth Test against England so emphatically on its head.
India have that most sought-after of combinations of talent and resilience. They deserve all the praise in the world for putting that balance on theatrical display on day five at the Oval, for again muzzling their unappreciative critics. As so many gushed over their brilliance, and as I write these three paragraphs of tribute, we stumble upon the somewhat cheeky, partially greedy question of whether they can, or indeed should, be even more dominant.
This is not, I stress, another reproval to stoke fires which need nothing of the sort. But it is, I wonder, perhaps a question Virat Kohli will be asking his team after there second fruitful trip to London. They are so much better than England, who still have a potent but tiring seam attack and one world-class batter, that anything other than another win in Manchester next week, weather permitting, should not be tolerated.
India can use their strength in depth, namely Ravichandran Ashwin, to expose England’s lack of it. They have been too stubborn in not including him, despite Ravindra Jadeja exploiting the rough well on Monday. The emotion that drives their team performances seems to have found its unwanted way into their selection policy, an unbending refusal to back down to the press. When the matter is as simple as playing England’s tormenter and the best spin bowler in the world, cool heads must prevail.
India’s middle order has not yet fully fired. Kohli himself will know that his team have shown themselves to be far superior without huge scores from Rahane, Pujara, and most significantly himself. Pop that piece into this jigsaw, abundant with lower order runs, excellent openers and a memorable bowling unit, and the rest of the world will have no answer.
We all know by now that India is effectively tapping its enormous talent pools, exploiting the nationwide passion for a game uniquely woven into the fabric of everyday society. We know that they are good right now, and are only getting better, that there is an air of inevitability surrounding their future success moulding a cricketing dynasty.
Perhaps that dynasty has already begun, but India are too good, even away from home, to be considering anything less than swatting an understrength, underperforming England team to one side. They can motivate themselves not through their inconsistencies but by striving for perfection, to overcome New Zealand and occupy that world-leading podium alone. This Indian team is a great one, but it is time for their greatness to define an era.