Virat’s boys winning against the present Australian team and Gavaskar’s men forcing the mighty Lloyd’s demons to settle for a draw cannot be the same. Let’s get that right first.
Much is being debated all over if the present Indian Test Team under Virat is the best. Comparisons are being drawn from across countries and eras. Are they really the best?
To begin with, I think what most are missing with the word go is that greatness is always judged by the circumstances and competition thrown into. A century against today’s Afghanistan cannot be par with that against the West Indies of the 70s & 80s. So let’s first get the premise right.
Virat undoubtedly is one of the greatest ever India had for that matter the game itself had. By the time he hangs his boot perhaps he may finish with the best of records against his name. There should also be no doubt in anyone’s mind whatsoever that whether he is good enough to be in any of the teams across eras. He would simply fit into any Test team of any country and any era. Where one goes wrong is comparing the performance of one era with the other.
A Virat Kohli of today cannot be compared with a Vivian Richards of the ’70s nor can Don Brahman of his playing days be compared with that of Sachin while he played his best. Simply because different eras present themselves with different circumstances and challenges. While not having uncovered pitches to play on is an advantage to the batsman today, he also has to undergo the team of analysts decoding every molecular movement of his on their laptops. Same as in soccer. The times of Pele were not the same as Maradona nor is same now for Messi or Ronaldo. A comparison between Messi and Ronaldo is quite logical and in place but to compare Maradona with Messi to determine who was the greatest is completely on incorrect premise.
What we need to consider is the competition that has been offered to this Indian team under Virat and any team from any country or era that you may wish to compare. The wins Virat’s team has been able to register against the Australian team of today cannot have the same weightage as that of Sourav’s XI winning against Steve’s XI. Dhoni’s wins against Sammy’s team cannot be the same as forcing a draw by Gavaskar’s men against Lloyd’s demons.
Therefore if we actually evaluate the circumstance and opposition each of these teams encountered and put weightage against each, maybe we shall do justice to our analysis.
On that premise to me the best ever Indian Test Team would by far be Team India under Sourav followed by Dravid, Kumble and possibly the initial years of Dhoni. The phase when Indian team was growing under Sourav just have a look at the rest of the teams all across the world. Even teams like Zimbabwe and Kenya had world beaters who actually made the best of the teams surrender to their grit and determination.
Name any of the teams of that era, Laras & Walshs of Windies, Waughs, Warnes, and McGraths of Australia, Kallis, Jhontys, Donalds & Pollocks of South Africa, Jayasuriya’s, Vaas and Muralitharan’s of Sri Lanka, Arthertons, Vaughans, Pietersen’s, Stewarts, Caddick’s and Corks of England, Flemings, Astles, Cairns and Vettori’s of New Zealand, Flowers, Campbells, Streaks, and Houghton’s of Zimbabwe and of course the Wasims, Waqars, Saqlains, Inzamam’s and Anwar’s of Pakistan. In the history of one and a half-century of International cricket never has such an era been when each of the Test playing teams had world class players in plenty and could threat each other at all times. Even the minnows of the day then Kenya and Bangladesh posed complete threat to any of these teams anyday though Kenya never played Tests.
Even when we look back deep from Bradmans to Sobers to Kapil Devs one would not find such balanced and competitive teams in all Test-playing nations peaking at the same time.
Thus to me, it will be fair to conclude that India had their best Test team from the late 90s to mid-2000s. The best in the world would perhaps still be Steve’s & Ponting’s Australia for the sheer consistency they showed during such a competitive era.
Yes it’s not Virat’s fault to have lesser competition from opponents in his era than previous and no one can take away what he has achieved or will achieve in the future but as I said it was the greatest of all times, the competition you faced will always count.