Former India star batsman Gundappa Viswanath, who represented India from 1969 to 1983, feels India’s dismal show at Adelaide taught them a lot and made them hungrier for wins.
“It was a tremendous victory (against England). India lost the opening Test in Australia badly, they were 36 all out, and then made a remarkable comeback to win the series. Again, they did the same against England. They lost the first Test by a huge margin (227 runs) and then went on to win the series. It was a brilliant performance by India. That 36 all-out figure in Adelaide has changed India’s mindset and has made them hungrier for wins. More than batsmen, I would like to credit the bowlers who bowled consistently throughout the series,” Viswanath told Timesofindia.com in an exclusive interview.
India won the Border Gavaskar series under Ajinkya Rahane‘s leadership. Virat Kohli, after the Adelaide Test, had gone back home on paternity leave and handed over the captaincy baton to Rahane for the remaining three Tests and the rest is history.
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane (AFP Photo)
Kohli found himself in a similar kind of situation when he returned for the home series against England. India had lost the opening Test by 227 runs but then bounced back hard to win the remaining three Tests and clinch the Test series with an emphatic 3-1 scoreline.
India won the second Test by 317 runs, the third by 10 wickets, and the fourth and last Test by an innings and 25 runs.
Viswanath lauded the captaincy styles of both Rahane and Kohli.
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. (AFP Photo)
“Both are talented batsmen, as well as captains. Every captain has a different approach and character. Virat and Rahane are two different characters. They both have different approaches. They both have different ways of leading a team but they both want wins. Virat leads with aggression, Rahane with calmness, but they both are hungry for wins. Indian cricket is really in safe hands. I love watching both Virat and Rahane bat as well as lead the team,” the former India cricketer, who turned 72 in February, said.
“What Rahane has done in Australia, it was remarkable. It is not easy to come out of a zone when your team is all out for 36. Rahane injected confidence, and then won the series as well. He was just tremendous,” Viswanath further said.
That Indian cricket currently has a problem of plenty is an understatement. Across all three formats, there are multiple options for various positions in the playing XI.
Very talented uncapped players are knocking on the door constantly, thereby also making sure that those in the playing XI don’t take their places for granted.
The multiple options are giving selectors a happy headache. Who should the captain go with? Who should the selectors pick? Be it opening slots, finding a place in the middle order, pace or spin department, wicket-keeping slots, there is very healthy competition in Indian cricket currently.
Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri. (Getty Images)
India head coach Ravi Shastri recently told TOI that India can field two playing XIs, given how strong the bench strength is currently.
The India vs New Zealand World Test Championship final is scheduled to take place from June 18 to 22.
The Asia Cup 2021 could be held in the last week of June. There is a possibility that the BCCI could send a second-string team for the Asia Cup if that is the case, since most of the first choice players will be in England at that time, getting ready for the 5 Test series on English soil.
“There is a lot of competition now. I would say it’s a healthy competition. When you have options, you are always high on confidence. That’s what the current Team India is all about. It is a good sign for Indian cricket’s future,” Viswanath told TimesofIndia.com.
Viswanath also lauded India’s spin duo Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, who played a vital role in Team India’s series win against England recently.
Axar Patel and R Ashwin. (BCCI Photo)
Ashwin was the highest wicket-taker in the series. He claimed 32 wickets in 4 Tests, while left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who found a place in the playing XI because Ravindra Jadeja wasn’t available, finished second with 27 scalps in 3 Tests for the team in what was his debut series. Ashwin and Axar took seven five-wicket hauls between them in the series.
“It was a tremendous effort from both Ashwin and Axar. They single-handedly won the matches for India. Spinners mature a bit late and that’s what happening with Ashwin. He is maturing like a fine wine. He is just amazing. He is bowling cleverly and changes his line and length with situations. He is making the ball talk. Axar is a newcomer. He has to go a long way. Axar will now give a lot of headache to Indian selectors,” Viswanath, who played 91 Tests and 25 ODIs for India between 1969 and 1983, said.
‘NO DEBATE ABOUT THE PITCH’
There was a lot of talk about the pitches during the India-England Test series. The Chepauk track was called a “beach” by former England captain Michael Vaughan.
Viswanath said England can’t complain about the pitches.
“The England team didn’t know how to go ahead after the first Test. They went into a shell after winning the first Test and never came out of it. That’s why they struggled. The pitch was a typical Indian pitch. It was not the first time the England team messed up. The England team can’t complain about the pitches. They just cannot. Because Indian batsmen also scored runs on the same pitch. And, it was a home advantage for the Indian team. Because when we go out and in fact when we used to go out, they also offered us pitches to play that suited them. So, there is no point in debating about this,” the former India cricketer said.
THE CLASS OF 1971
Viswanath also took a walk down memory lane and relived the 1971 series win, under Ajit Wadekar’s captaincy, against England in England in 1971. He termed that series win against the Three Lions as his favourite personal memory.
Gundappa Viswanath . (ICC Photo)
“Winning the 1971 series under Ajit Wadekar’s captaincy. That will always be top of my all-time memory list. Before that series, we won in the West Indies. Immediately after the Windies series win, we travelled to England and won the series there as well. It was a tremendous series win by our team. And of course, getting a hundred at Lord’s (113 vs England in 1979) will always be special. That is something that will be with me forever,” Viswanath signed off.