BENGALURU: Much has changed in Indian cricket since the national team last lost a Test series on home soil nearly 10 years ago.
Former captain MS Dhoni retired from Test cricket, Virat Kohli took up the mantle to lead India to the top of the rankings before stepping down this year and four different coaches have been in charge of the team.
But India’s relentless home domination continued.
They have hosted 42 matches since England claimed a famous 2-1 victory in 2012. The hosts have lost two Tests but won every series – 15 in a row after the 2-0 sweep of Sri Lanka.
Several teams have come to Indian shores with high hopes of conquering the “final frontier”. Australia, West Indies, South Africa, New Zealand and England have toured twice since 2012 and lost every series.
Bangladesh and Afghanistan were also thrashed while Sri Lanka have now gone 22 matches without a win in India – the most by any team in a country.
Many of India’s victories have been achieved in emphatic fashion, often without having to bat a second time.
As a result, competition for places has become cut-throat and batting stalwarts such as Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, with 177 Test caps between them, have been dropped.
Against Sri Lanka, they were not missed.
A rapidly maturing Shreyas Iyer cemented his place in the middle order with two half-centuries on a Bengaluru pitch that aided the Lankan spinners and Hanuma Vihari showed promise at number three.
Dhoni’s shoes were probably the biggest to fill but the daring Rishabh Pant has made the wicketkeeper’s job his own.
Pant had proved his mettle overseas and in the past 14 months has contributed match-turning knocks lower down the order.
Lightning-quick glove work, sound judgement on reviewing decisions and fireworks with the bat contributed to a player of the series award against Sri Lanka.
Pant has had his critics, mainly for his propensity to throw his wicket away with rash decision-making.
But his skipper Rohit believes he has learned to play a delicate balancing act between trusting his instincts and curbing them.
“As a cricketer you want to evolve. In the past, I’ve made a few mistakes, but I want to keep improving. My mindset is not the same,” Pant said. “I used to think too much about what I might miss. Now I’m focusing on my process.”
With India playing matches across all three formats throughout the year, squad rotation has been key to keeping players fresh – especially fast bowlers.
Jasprit Bumrah has played 29 Tests for India but the Bengaluru game – where he picked up eight wickets – was only his fourth at home.
“Keeping the workload in mind we have to rotate these bowlers, so he’s missed a lot of games,” Rohit said.
“He’s quite keen to make an impact in Test cricket. Going forward, you will see Bumrah playing Tests in India and abroad, but we need to look after these guys.”