5 reasons why India's dominance in Tests will continue for a while
India have been dominant in home Tests for quite a while now. They were difficult to beat earlier too, but the current Indian side looks absolute gold.
Not just at home, India have shown signs of being competitive in away Tests as well. They have lost a few matches overseas recently, but they were mostly close encounters. And you suspect that the current team is an improvement over the teams that lost in England and South Africa last year.
It is likely that India will now start winning series abroad too, in addition to continuing their dominance at home. Here are five reasons why:
1. Solid top order
India's top order problems were evident on tours where they used to depend on mainly Virat Kohli to both arrest a collapse, and score runs. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane would chip in at times, but these batsmen would be exposed to the new ball very early.
With Mayank Agarwal's impressive stint in Australia, India looked to settle their problems at the top a little. And now in the series against South Africa, Rohit Sharma's application has been amazing to watch.
Both openers have been cautious. They've capitalized on their starts, and made it count every time they've got into the 30s. Their ability to put the edgy and nervy moments aside and focus on the next phase of the game has been absolutely spot on.
We saw in the Ashes how David Warner, a proven Test opener, struggled to get his mind past the edges and miscues. But Rohit and Agarwal have shown the temperament to put the misses behind, and go on to dominate when the bowlers are weary and the ball is softer.
Pujara had an ordinary stint in this series, but his temperament is unquestionable after his match-winning, lone-warrior performances in Australia. With these three forming the top order, India's prolific middle order can think of scoring runs right after they come to the crease.
2. Top-class middle order, and capable lower middle order
There is no doubt about the ability of Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, regardless of the conditions and the bowling attack. Kohli's dominance in overseas tours last year, especially in England, proved to everyone that there's nothing he can't do. The highest run-maker and ICC Test Player of the Year in 2018, Kohli produced a string of performances that we will remember for a long time.
Ajinkya Rahane meanwhile has been India's trusted middle order batsmen for a few years now. His average outside Asia is better than his average inside Asia; his batting shines when India needs it the most. Currently, there is no better man to partner Kohli in the middle order.
India have two options for the wicketkeeper's slot, namely Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant. With Saha, you get nearly flawless keeping and a batting ability that can support the top order batsmen. With Pant, whose keeping can be considered a work in progress, you can expect a match-changing innings, like in England and Australia.
These are really two opposite extremes from which to choose, and most teams don't have that luxury.
Ravindra Jadeja has really improved his Test batting in recent times. His runs at the fag end of the innings are like gold dust for India. Considering the fact that he is more of a bowler, and also a gun fielder, Jadeja's batting is like an unexpected bonus.
3. All-condition bowlers
The spin department has been India's best bet in Tests since their entry into the sport. Their spinners have been known to utilize turning tracks and take wickets by the truckload.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been the mainstays of the spin department with their superb record in Asia. Overseas teams spend weeks and months preparing for them, and still cannot find a way past.
But it is the performance of the pace bowlers that has given India an edge in recent times. Since his debut last year, Jasprit Bumrah has been phenomenal in both home and away conditions.
Along with him, Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma have combined to form a fantastic fast bowling trio for India. They specialize in different aspects, and that makes them work beautifully together, complementing each other's skills.
Umesh Yadav's efforts in the last match against South Africa, coupled with the fact that a bowler like Bhuvneshwar Kumar is in reserve, speaks volumes about the potency of India's bowling attack.
4. Focus on fitness and diet
A captain thinks about making the team better. You cannot win every match, but you can prepare your team to give a fight in all conditions, against any opposition.
You get different players for different years in a T20 franchise tournament, and Kohli's ability to judge the team quickly and calculate what works best has been found wanting. But his influence on the way Team India trains, and the way the team members eat and go about their jobs on the field, is evident.
India's fielding has improved drastically in recent times. The fast bowlers have been kept away from severe injuries. The workload has been managed really well.
The fast bowling department showed fire and stamina all through the hectic year of 2018, thanks largely to the improved fitness standards in the team.
5. Cricket craze, investment and young talents
The BCCI is the richest cricket board in the world, and also runs the biggest T20 franchise league in the world. The young Indian players are being coached by Rahul Dravid, the legendary batsman and astute cricket mind. The BCCI has invested in resources for players including their salaries, job security, exposure to high level cricket and frequent matches.
India's cricket-crazy population, where scores of kids dream to play cricket for the nation, helps to maintain the quality of players coming through. Indian cricket can survive within India, a statement that wouldn't hold true for any other nation.
Take South Africa as an example. A country that used to produce remarkable talents, is seeing a plethora of cricketers sign Kolpak deals and play for counties in England. That is unlikely to ever happen in India.
Moreover, sponsorship and broadcasting deals have been yielding big money for BCCI, which is investing in the right way.
India's talent pool is large and deep. There are many players who would've made it to the Test side of any other nation currently, but they are unable to do so in India because of the high competition levels.
If this trend continues, India's dominance in Tests will keep increasing in the future.