India have just thrashed South Africa by an innings and 202 runs in Ranchi, wrapping up the Test series 3-0.
What does the series win mean for India in the World Test Championship?
Five wins in as many games mean that India are the runaway table-toppers in the World Test Championship. After just five games, they’ve 240 points, opening up a massive lead of 180 points over New Zealand and Sri Lanka, who are tied on 60 points each. India have played more games than any other team — even so, the points that they have accumulated is a powerful reiteration of their dominance over the last three years, the period in which they have established themselves firmly at the top of the Test rankings table, too. Also, among the teams that have played at least one match in the Test championship, India is the only one that is still unbeaten.
But can India sustain its lead for a longer duration?
Given the form that they are in, India can be expected to maintain their lead, and be the odds-on favourite to be in the final of the 2021 World Test Championship. Another 120 points will be up for grabs when Bangladesh tour India for a whistle-stop two-Test series. (Not to take Bangladesh lightly, though.)
After that series, India will play two Tests in New Zealand in February next year — which would be their first serious test. But having won series in Australia, losing close rubbers to England (closer than the 3-1 scoreline indicates in reality) and South Africa, India are no longer poor travellers.
With their bowling arsenal envenomed by the return of Jasprit Bumrah, India’s winning streak would be hard to arrest, irrespective of where they are playing. An attestation lies in the manner in which they have snuffed out their adversaries in the last five games. The margin of victories have been as follows: 318 runs, 257 runs, 203 runs, innings and 137 runs, and innings and 202 runs.
So what makes the current Indian side such an irresistible force on the field?
Seldom has India’s bowling stock been so lethal or prosperous. There’s quality and depth, experience and expertise, hunger and craft. There is a bowler for every condition, and bowlers who are able to transcend conditions. India’s spinners no longer need rank turners to reap wickets, the seamers can purchase wickets even in unfriendly conditions.
Also, now that Rohit Sharma has begun his Test opening career on a resounding note, India’s batting looks well-rounded. Although not as lofty as the fab four of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and VVS Laxman, India have one of the most daunting batting line-ups in the world. It is also a line-up that bats deep. Someone like Ravi Ashwin, with four Test hundreds to his names, comes in to bat at No 8.
India were never fortunate to have such an alignment of factors that make a great team.