India’s emphatic innings-and-36-run victory over England at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium has effectively broken a jinx. Among all its Test cricket rivals, discounting the hype around games against Australia or the history that permeates jousts involving Pakistan, England had been a bugbear. Twice, India lost Test series in England in 2011 and 2014; it also suffered the ignominy of losing at home in 2012. Redemption finally came in Mumbai as Virat Kohli’s men secured an unassailable 3-0 lead with just the fifth and final Test remaining to be played in Chennai, starting Friday. The cobwebs of the past have been shed and a new order is in place. In its last 17 Tests, India remained undefeated, the highlight being 13 wins. This equals the purple patch from 1985 to 1987 that featured four victories, 12 draws and a tie across 17 games. India can do one better if it wins or at least draws at Chennai. The current winning streak includes five consecutive Test series triumphs: Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand and England have been vanquished. From shedding the pangs of transition to charting its own path, the present squad has shown that it respects the aura of Tests and is fiercely motivated to win. It is a trait Kohli shares with coach Anil Kumble.
The squad’s twin arms, Kohli and R. Ashwin, have worked in pulsating tandem. As a batsman with a concurrent average of 50-plus across all three formats, Kohli is poised to join the league of legends. He has led from the front. England wilted under the weight of his bat that yielded 640 runs at an average of 128. He even played peacemaker when Ashwin and James Anderson had a spat in Mumbai. Ashwin, meanwhile, has powered India’s remarkable growth, with both ball and bat. He has bagged 27 wickets in this series, and the final contest at his home ground in Chennai may only enthuse him more. The team’s glory is not just restricted to Kohli and Ashwin, the rest have all put their hands up at various times. Be it Jayant Yadav, an able understudy to Ashwin the off-spinner and an effective batsman; Parthiv Patel, called in as a replacement wicketkeeper; seamer Mohammed Shami; or the reliable Murali Vijay, opening with assurance. The squad’s inherent strength hasn’t waned even when personnel are lost briefly due to injuries (Ajinkya Rahane or Rohit Sharma) or when form deserts (Shikhar Dhawan). India still has a long road to traverse and overseas wins in Australia and England need to be secured. But for now Kohli and his men are enjoying a stupendous home run.