Nasscom’s cautious outlook points to many challenges, with delayed decision-making and restrained client spending standing out as the primary culprits.
When the World Test Championship got going in 2019, few people, buttonholed for persuasion, would have complied as readily as when lending the Sultan of Brunei a fiver if asked to put their money on an India-New Zealand final. Not that anyone would have deemed Virat
Kohli’s team the cricketing equivalent of global football’s
Faroe islands. Not by a long shot.
India happen to be cricket’s most important national outfit, in or out of action, whatever the format, or the point at issue. The Board of Control for Cricket in India bankrolls the game and it, of course, helps that its senior men’s combination do not lose too often.
They usually win, sometimes big. And with each triumph, a fresh layer of lustre is added to them. You cannot really be just as voluble, or equally complimentary, about New Zealand, whom the game’s aficionados do not really grapple to their soul with hoops of steel. They did beat India 2-0 on their way to the summit showdown but they held home advantage then. Visiting Australia, they had the stuffing knocked out of them by a team that would lose at home a second successive series to India, who were obliged to take racist sideswipes in their stride quite apart from having to outperform a skilled and doughty lot with a never-say-die outlook.
That they managed it with a second-string pace attack was nothing short of miraculous. To say that is not to imply that India flinch from making the most of home advantage when they have it, but, crucially, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s boys climbed to No 1 in the Test standings, pundits never stopped pointing at the preponderance of sub-continental triumphs in their track record. And there is every reason for India to be optimistic of victory at the Aegeas Bowl, Southampton, when the big battle is gone into, given they can unleash the world’s best balanced bowling attack.
It is rich in pace and abundantly resourceful in terms of spin. And the best thing about the Indian squad is that fresh talent gets added to it with a frequency which is amazing. In the series against England being held now, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel and, in a way, even Ishan Kishan have written their own fairy tales. In Australia, Mohammad Siraj had been the factor that took everyone by surprise. Truth to tell, cricket’s English summer 2021 is planned around the Indian team, with five Test matches against the hosts on the cards.
New Zealand, in contrast, have been put down to only two. It is doubtful that Indian cricket has ever had it this good, the long march having begun when the
Parsees of what then was Bombay sent to England our first representative squad in 1886. Well might the Ashes series retain their historic speciality, but it is the jewel-in-the-crown Empire-strikes-back story that could eclipse a lot of other narratives around the game.