The cricket jersey has emerged as one of India’s leading symbols of unity over the last few decades. Endless moments of triumph and nostalgia involve these jerseys, even when sometimes it is publicly stripped off to make a statement, like Dada did in the 2002 Natwest Series final. But despite the thrill and instantaneous rush of limited-over cricket, the purest, most special respect is reserved for the elusive whites — the Test jersey — which only a privileged group of 302 Indians have been lucky to wear so far.
Even the Indian skipper and one of the greatest limited-overs batsmen of this era, Virat Kohli, has admitted that nothing comes close to flaunting the whites. “What a blessing to be able to play Test cricket for India,” he had once posted on his Instagram.
The Test jersey’s design has stood the test of time, barring minor nips and tucks to accommodate sleeve sponsors. The minimalism persisted, as Test cricket evolved over the last century from being an exclusive England-Australia affair to a global fan favourite (against popular perception, 86 percent fans prefer Tests over other formats, according to a recent poll conducted by the Marylebone Cricket Club).
The Test jersey finally experienced its most radical design change in 2019. The International Cricket Council (ICC) mandated the printing of names and numbers on the back of jerseys, breaking the 100-plus year old code of plain whites. Team India debuted these new kits on the tour to the West Indies in August that year. Ahead of the tour Down Under in December last year, the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) announced a changeover of the official kit-maker from Nike to Mobile Premier League (MPL). This coincided with another big design alteration. The shirt design was altered to follow ICC’s rule modifications, in wake of the pandemic, to help boards recoup financial losses. With an additional 206.45 sq cm area available on the front, India sported a large BYJU’s logo, for the first time in a first-class game at the Drummoyne Oval in Sydney in December 2020, and eventually during the historic series win against Australia.
A consequent series victory over England ensured India’s qualification for the inaugural World Test Championship final to be played in Southampton in the UK this month. India will mark the occasion with another special kit. The team’s middle-order mainstay, Cheteshwar Pujara, provided first glimpses of the new outfit on his Instagram recently. The jersey sports the name of the team across the front, accompanied by the WTC logo under the right collar.
Earlier, allrounder Ravindra Jadeja had posted a picture of him wearing the new complementary jumper, which looked like a throwback to the ’90s. The V-neck sweater, with twin blue stripes running across the collar, will be a big presence in the nippy South-Eastern English weather during the final.
Official kit-makers MPL, in tandem with sports and streetwear company SIX5SIX, have also designed a limited-edition jersey in celebration of the team’s journey to this landmark. “As the team aims for a historic finish at the WTC finals, we wanted to do something special for the supporters to revel in the excitement,” MPL senior vice president Abhishek Madhavan told me, and added, “It is a modern interpretation of the classic all-white look, with bespoke details, that commemorates what the team stands for.”
I was among the first few who got to try it on ahead of the final. The understated gold highlights stood out for me, which are meant to pay ‘homage to Team India’s rich legacy.’ It’s available, for the fans to purchase, on the MPL website.