By Sunil Garodia
In the end, it was as easy as a stroll in the park. All talks of India facing a stiff challenge from full strength and in-form New Zealand team (as opposed to, said some, the depleted Australian team due to the ban on Smith, Warner and Cameroon) were blown to smithereens by the marauding Men in Blue. India won the first three ODIs on the trot and sealed the five-match series easily.
Some commentators have made it a habit to downplay achievements by the Indian team. If India won a Test series and a bilateral ODI series in Australia for the first time, they say it was only possible because the Aussies were not at full strength. Let them travel to New Zealand, they said, and the familiar problem with the moving ball and the bad overseas record will be exposed again.
But these commentators fail to realize that this Indian team has embraced the habit of winning. It is led by a charismatic leader who puts a premium on fitness and has moulded it into a fighting unit that abhors losing. Virat Kohli hates losing and has injected this spirit in the rest of his teammates. The team has experienced players and budding but highly talented youngsters in equal measure and more often than not, someone or the other put his hand up to be counted. More importantly, this team has bowlers who can bowl out any opposition on any surface anywhere in the world.
Having won the series, knowing Kohli and Shastri, the tour selection committee will now give a chance to all the players to get match experience in the remaining two ODIs. Kohli has already been rested by the BCCI for the remainder of the NZ tour. This will be an excellent opportunity for the likes of Shubman Gill to make their mark. Such is the bench strength India possesses that Shikhar Dhawan was spot on when he recently said that competition for places has become quite stiff in the team and no one can take his place for granted.
The Indian team is on a roll and it bodes well for the World Cup ahead. The nucleus of the Cup team will be formed from the present squad with some additions and alterations. Hence it is important that India maintains the winning momentum and important though he is, carries on with it despite Virat Kohli’s absence. The captain himself was confident ahead of bidding goodbye to his mates as he said that he was not worried because the team was in “auto mode”. It is now upon the players to prove him right.