indian cricket

From Boxing Day 2014 to Valentine’s Day 2017, Virat Kohli has made winning a habit for Team India

Since the loss to Sri Lanka in Galle in July 2015, India have gone 19 matches undefeated, the fifth longest such streak in history.

A couple of hours after the Boxing Day Test of 2014 wound down to a draw, and Australia had sealed the series, a quiet press release from the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced to the cricketing world that India’s most successful Test captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was stepping down as captain and retiring from the Test game immediately handing over the reins to the young man-in-waiting, Virat Kohli. As his last act in the Test arena, Dhoni, in the company of Ravichandran Ashwin, safely negotiated through the final hour to manage a draw for India at Melbourne.

The timing could not have been any more perfect for the incoming captain who had got a taste of it earlier in the series in Adelaide due to injury-forced absence of Dhoni, and would lead the side out in Sydney few days later. There was going to be a long home stretch of 17 Tests (interrupted by four in the West Indies, three in Sri Lanka and one in Bangladesh – all manageable overseas challenges) allowing Kohli to grow in to his job and build the young team around him.

Kohli-led India in 2015 had terrific success (five wins, one loss and two rain-affected draws) and swept aside the weak West Indies team in mid-2016 before embarking on a 13-Test home season hosting New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia. It was expected to be a tough examination of the Indian side still coming together as a team since the departure of some of the greatest cricketers to ever don Indian colours.

All the big numbers

As the ninth Test of the home stretch ended at Hyderabad with India wrapping up a handsome win over Bangladesh by 208 runs, it is useful to look back on the happenings and to have a look ahead to what promises to be most exacting portion of the home season with Australia in India for four Tests.

Since the loss to Sri Lanka at Galle in July 2015, India are on 19-Test undefeated streak, only the fifth longest such streaks in history [15 wins, 4 draws]. Kohli has registered six series wins as captain, going past the record of his predecessor Dhoni in 2008-‘10. The string of 19 Tests without a defeat also bested the marks of Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev-led India of 1976-‘80 and 1985-‘87, respectively.

Successful teams on a roll usually persist with an unchanged playing XI. Kohli has been the full time Test captain for 22 Tests now, and he is yet to have the same team sheet in any two consecutive Test matches. Some of the changes have been forced, due to injuries, and some of them have been due to Kohli’s penchant for having only five batsmen in the line up that provides him the flexibility in the bowlers to choose based on the pitch conditions and oppositions.

Only Kohli and Ashwin – the best batsman and bowler in the side – have been the constants through these 22 Tests. It is a testament to the quality of the side, and the ability of the players in and around the Indian national side that with even such frequently changing parts, the team has been on a remarkable run of success. Playing at home helps too.

It’s been a team game, through and through

Fifteen centuries by seven different India batsmen have been notched up in the nine home Tests this season, led by none other than Kohli with four, including two double hundreds. Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay scored three each to aid their skipper, while Ajinkya Rahane and his injury-replacement Karun Nair, KL Rahul and Jayant Yadav whipped in with one each. Ashwin leads all bowlers with six five-wicket hauls, followed by Ravindra Jadeja with two and Bhuvneshwar Kumar with one. More than personal landmarks and milestones, almost every player has contributed in significant, sometimes small, ways for the eight victories in these nine Tests; Mohammad Shami’s three-for and two-for and Jadeja’s 90 along with Ashwin and Jayant’s fifties at Mohali set the stage for India to win that Test.

India have not just managed to beat quality sides in New Zealand and England, and the up-and-comers in Bangladesh, but the margins of victory indicate the sort of dominance they have had over their opponents; two wins by an innings, one victory by eight wickets and five more by at least 178 runs.

That brings us to the remaining four Tests against the team from Down Under. Even as Australia’s batting line up has gone through changes recently, their competitiveness and ability to win Tests would entirely depend on their bowling attack.

Remember MS Dhoni’s contribution as well

With Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood – two of the best young pacers in the world today – and the most successful offspinner in Australia’s history Nathan Lyon, aided by the steady left arm spin of Steve O’Keefe, Australia possess the quality and variety to consistently challenge the Indian batsmen. Starc has repeatedly exposed fragility in opposition opening batsmen and India’s merry-go-round of openers do appear likely to fall victims to the left-armer’s extreme pace. It would then fall on the shoulders of Pujara, Kohli and Rahane to routinely provide sufficient scores for their Ashwin and Jadeja to be effective.

In Steve Smith and David Warner, India will face the top ranked and fifth-ranked batsmen in the International Cricket Council rankings. The newcomers Matt Renshaw and Pete Handscomb have had excellent starts to their careers, and along with Usman Khawaja could provide just enough support to their batting linchpins Smith and Warner, and keep their bowlers in the game. To that, add the “never-say-die” approach of the Aussies and we have a mouth-watering Test series in the offing.

A series win, even if it is not a whitewash, would set Kohli and his side up for the tours abroad to South Africa and New Zealand in 2018. The stretch of home Tests under new leadership has allowed India to identify the players that they could invest in, and rely upon for those overseas challenges, and India have Dhoni to thank for, for that impeccable timing of handing over the responsibility of shepherding Indian cricket.

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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.