India arrived in Australia with the world’s best batsman heading up a star-studded lineup.
They also brought two world-class spinners, who complemented a fast-bowling lineup that may be the best India has ever produced, as well as an exciting batsman-keeper.
Add the fact it’s an all-around useful fielding side and you get the picture of why the ICC’s rankings suggested a big gap between India, the number one Test nation, and England, regarded as next best.
But after two Tests in Australia, the obvious question is whether the current lineup is as good as the numbers suggest?
The top order is a major worry. In four innings, India have been two down for 15 or less on three occasions, which follows a similar pattern from the recent tour of England.
The tourists have experienced openers in KL Rahul (who averages 35.2), Ajinkya Rahane (41.45) and Cheteshwar Pujara at three (ave 49.8), but these three are not giving the middle order a chance to post big scores.
Virat Kohli is the side’s class player and guys who bat with him seem to gain confidence simply by being at the other end.
The Perth Test proved that even when Kohli makes runs, without support from the rest of his batting lineup, India will lose Tests and right now, Rahane, Sharma, Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant are simply not producing.
In Pant’s case, he doesn’t seem to know whether he should be playing as a Test batsman or as a T20 hitter.
The rest of the batting, from no.8 down, is simply not up to Test standard, with some guys not at all keen to get in behind the ball.
India’s bowlers aren’t doing much better than their batsmen.
This is one of the weakest batting lineups Australia has fielded in the past 50 years, yet they have more than held their own in the first two Tests, played on wickets that gave plenty of help to the bowlers.
The Aussies are averaging better than 104 overs per innings, which suggests the Indian attack either lacks penetration or is not being well managed.
In contrast, India is averaging 89 overs.
The “elephant in the room” has to be team leadership, and this is where Ravi Shastri needs to get Kohli to pull his head in.
Kohli seems hell-bent on sledging, which is taking his focus away from his role as on-field leader. He’s not managing his bowlers well and seems almost clueless when a decent partnership develops, relying more on defensive field placements and luck to get wickets, than on being adventurous and attacking.
I also question whether he is a very good people manager, given some of the antics we saw and heard from some Indian players in the past few days.
Don’t get me wrong, India has some fine players and injuries have not helped their cause, but this team has a lot of issues to address if they want to remain at the top of the ICC Test pile.
Their worst mistake would be denying they have issues and right now, that’s the impression Shastri and Kohli seem to be giving.