In The End of the Affair, Graham Greene wrote: “Pain is easy to write. In pain we’re all happily individual. But what can one write about happiness?” You could substitute ‘failure’ for pain, and ‘success’ for happiness, and the sentence would still make perfect sense. Each time India lose, a thousand columns and shows bloom, each competing with the other to identify mujrims [culprits]. When the team wins, as they so often have in the Test arenaoverthepasttwoseasons,there are only so many songs of praise one can sing.
Even players and coaches can get tired of talking about it, of how they keep complacency at bay and eyes on the road ahead. Successful sides are even less inclined to focus too much time and energy on the opposition. Such has been the rivalry between India and Australia in the new millennium that it was only natural that AnilKumblewouldfaceseveralquestions about the men in baggy green.
In the 21st century, Australia have won 112 Tests and lost 45. They have dominated every opponent – except India, who lead the head-to-head 1312. “Overall, they’re a good side,” said Kumble, trying not to damn Steven Smith’steamwithfaint praise.“They have some good bowlers, batters. The approach that they tend to take is aggressive, so that’s something that we’re aware of. We will put together strategies that can counter that.”
Each potential banana skin this homeseasonhasbeennegotiatedwith some aplomb, and despite the visitors’ abysmalrecordinthesepartsoverthe past decade, Kumble and his wards aren’t likely to drop their guard. “We respect every opposition,” he said. “We spoke about this even before the New Zealand series started, and later even England was the most challenging. Bangladesh played extremely well as well. In terms of how we want toprepare,we’vebeeninthebestmode and the results have also gone in our favour. All the players who are in the squad have had good runs, whether with the bat or ball. I don’t think we need to attach any other significance to the series other than to look at ourselves and tick all those boxes that we’ve been doing over the last six to eight months.”
With just three specialist pace bowlers, and Mitchell Marsh, in the squad, this is a spin-heavy squad that Australia have brought to India. Kumble wouldn’t be drawn into making comparisons with the past – not that the great Shane Warne thrived in India either – but he did take pains to point out that India’s successes this season had come on perfectly good pitches. The old-fashioned dustbowl hasn’t even been glimpsed.
“We keep countering these type of questions at the start of the series or match, saying how is the pitch and what do you think about the toss. If you look back at the nine Tests that we’ve played at home, each one has had its own challenges. We’ve played at venues where Test cricket hasn’t been played before.
“In that sense, this team is capable ofadjustingandadaptingtowhatever challenges come up. I’m really satisfied with the way things have gone. On the last day of the Test match in Chennai, I don’t think many gave India a chance to win the Test, let alone after England scored almost 500 runs in the first innings. Even in Mumbai, it was a similar case, where we lost the toss and they put 400 runs and we won by an innings.
“That’s the beauty about this team. Even in Kolkata where we played New Zealand, [it was] very different conditions where the seamers came into the picture. We had answers to all those questions. That’s what you want from a champion team, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to build towards.”
On the subject of building for the future, India continue to keep a large squad together, rather than banking on 13 or 14. “We want options for any eventuality,” said Kumble. “We’ve had some injuries in the past, which have been before or on the day of the match. We want to keep the team together and then build on this. Because this is the same set of players, with maybe one or two [others] here and there, that will be part of Indian cricket’s Test arena for a long time.”
Theunbeatenrunnowstandsat19. But rather than bask in any glory, reflected or otherwise, Kumble will insist that his charges start this series with the slate wiped clean. “We certainly take one game at a time,” he said. “All those matches that we have played and all those situations that we were in, each one has come up and found a solution. Be it the top order or the lower order, the contributions have been really good.
“And with the bowling, it’s not just spinners, but the faster bowlers as well who have stood up in key moments. That’s what will hold us in good stead. There will be some toughmomentsintheseries,butI’m sure the squad is capable of coming up with solutions.”