"I don't rate India a long-term No.1" - Ian Chappell
Former Australian captain and leading commentator Ian Chappell has said India don't have the resources to retain their No.1 spot in the ICC Test rankings for a long enough period to emulate Australia and the great West Indies teams of the past. Chappell said that India's batting alone will not sustain them and to do so, they will have to unearth a couple of champion bowlers.
Chappell and former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar aired their views in Time Out, Cricinfo's new fortnightly audio show hosted by the leading commentator Harsha Bhogle. India bagged the top ranking from Australia after beating Sri Lanka 2-0 in the three-Test series at home last month. India jumped from No. 3 to No.1 for first time since the rankings came into place in May 2001.
Manjrekar said a big reason for India's success is the arrival of a strong opening pair in Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, and the ability to adjust to foreign conditions.
"It's a huge asset to have, a stable opening pair. I noticed a change in India's batting around the time Sourav Ganguly was leading India, John Wright was in charge, and I saw India playing on foreign pitches," Manjrekar said. "I found that the new generation of Indian batsmen could play the pull shot, the cut shot, and they were pretty good against the short deliveries."
However, Chappell felt that India have completed only half the job of being a well-rounded team.
"I don't think great teams are built on opening batting partnerships. But to me, there is a far more important thing, and this is one reason why I don't rate India as a long-term No.1, " Chappell said. "I think you have got to have two champion bowlers in your line-up to be a long-term successful cricket team. That is where India is falling down at the moment.
"When I look at the averages and the strike-rates for India in the last 12 months, I don't see two champion bowlers. In fact, I am struggling to find one champion bowler in that line-up. They've got some good bowlers. Sure, they have got a very good batting line-up, but the bowling is really not good enough to see them win consistently all around the world."
Over the last two years, India have played 20 Tests, winning nine and losing three. Three of those wins have come against Australia, including one in Perth during their last tour in 2007-08. Chappell acknowledged that India had performed above themselves in the last two tours of Australia, but their success would have tasted much better had they beaten them while they were still a major force in international cricket.
Since the collective retirement of their champion players like Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Justin Langer and later Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, Australia haven't produced the same level of consistency in results.
"I would have thought it was a greater achievement if they had caught up with Australia while Australia was still very much a great side, rather than waiting for Australia to come back to the field," Chappell said. "That to me has been the disappointing thing. It seems to me that the other teams have almost thrown their hands and said that 'it's hard to beat them, we will just wait for them to fall back and then we will catch them'."
There's lots more on the first episode of Time Out. Harsha, Sanjay and Ian discuss Pakistan's debacle in the Sydney Test; Ian recounts an enthralling Sydney Test that he was part of, and a look at teams who have pulled off such Houdini acts. Have a listen here.