Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Day of a New Era

Its been three days now since we emphatically won the test series against Australia, but not surprisingly, the excitement has not died. Some cynics argue that the victory is not quite so special because it was on home ground, some others say that Australia came home leaving behind formidable players like Mcgrath, Warne and Gilchrist. While both statements have substance, I (and perhaps many more people) do not think the series victory was special only because we beat Australia in two games (for the Aussies it is, they have not lost so fantastically since they played Viv Richard's team). It is special to me because for the first time in years my faith in Indian cricket has been refurbished. For the first time in ages, I regret not having watched a match fully...for not being in India discussing the finer points of the game (and the politics) with my father or my friends through the night. I have been reminded why cricket is as popular a game as it is.
We did win on home ground, but the manner of victory this time was different. We still prepared spin favoring pitches, but our pace bowlers lived up to and beyond the challenge. We were playing on familiar home turf and if statistics mean anything we would have probably won the series by pluck or luck, but we still dared to try something new. We have shown the cricketing world that we have become a force that is now more difficult to deal with...Kumble and Harbhajan did their job as spinners are expected to, but Ishant and Zaheer have given us a right to expect from them too. Their mastery in producing reverse swing by the 10th over unsettled the opponents and has raised unknown fear in others, not even the Pakistani greats who invented the action would have anticipated this...from India. The signs this time are unmistakable, we will surely in future add more names to the list that started and ended with Kapil Dev. Nothing is possible without an effort, and the efforts have finally begun to show.
Indian cricket is no longer like the time when I first developed an interest in the game, it is now more worth my time. Those were days when fans were justified in switching off their TV sets after our top 4 batsmen were out (then known as the three musketeers and D'Artagnan), because no body wanted to watch our tail play. Our tail was not meant to bat or to bowl. We were widely acknowledged as the world's worst chasers because we rarely won while batting second. Any match victory could be easily attributed to any single man on the team. Winning abroad only happened in the wildest dreams of the most enthusiastic fans. Indian cricketers going for the kill did not happen even there, we not only preached but were virtuous enough to practice our doctrine of ahimsa. All this changed...somewhere, somehow...people who did notice did not understand the full impact of what they were witnessing, Because it was all eclipsed by a more interesting spectacle. The side show has finally ended and people now see what happened behind the scenes, like it so much, and wish that they had not called for the curtains to close on the side show ( I was a part of this band wagon for a brief while) . It is a paradox, but true...the man behind the show got his worth only when he bowed down and quit. I believe it all started with one man...the prince of Calcutta.
If India has today learnt to play and win as a team, it was under him. If we are today not surprised by an abroad win, rewind and remember when it was that you stopped being surprised. He was accused of being a bad captain because he apparently played the divide and rule policy. Even if it were true, it does not matter because we were winning more than usual. He was accused of favoring new young players over the old (give me a break!) and that meant he was jealous and insecure, not far sighted. He reminded his team mates that they were young blood and not old cronies and taught them to aim a blow in return for one rather than dodge them one after the other. The result, he paid for everything in not flesh and blood but in spirit. We squeezed out every last bit from the king of comebacks. Of course he was aggressive against the aussies, give him one good reason why he should'nt have been. A refresher course..Steve Waugh and team openly declared that India had only three formidable players..Sachin, Dravid and Laxman even when Saurav was the captain. In retrospect, what goes around comes around...It was the Aussies who showed Ganguly the way to go and he led India to this path of rebirth, and it hit them before anybody else. Today Harbhajan's statement that Ponting needs to go back and learn some batting is ironic...History has a strange way of repeating itself, Bhaji has proved Ganguly right, again. Ganguly has a lot to be proud of apart from his personal statistics. He created a team from a bunch of men who met regularly to play a game. He awoke the passion within his people (Its not his fault that Harbhajan and Sreesanth get carried away at times, calling people monkeys and showing monkey faces :) ) although I wonder if he did ever point out in his defense that we crossed limits only against the kangaroos and provoked people to see a reason behind that...His only fault was that he was not a born genius like Sachin, but if that is a sin, then every batsman today is doomed to hell.
We missed the dawn of cricket's new era in a plethora of controversies surrounding the king himself, but the day ahead looks long and sunny. The ride can only be more exciting with Dhoni in the drivers seat . He has shown himself to be a player and a man of character. I do not know if his gesture of asking Saurav to captain the last few overs meant as much to either of them as the rest of the cricketing world, but that gesture showed that we were about to say good bye to a man who deserved more than he got...and, got more than he deserved. As Saurav returned the cap to dhoni, I felt he was giving us a final message and I think he is right..: "The future is in good hands, this time please trust them".


Vacha said...

I agree cent percent though I could only catch what bbc would tell me every morning...

For the first time, it looks like we have stepped away from relying on individual brilliance to pull us through...

Sur said...

A fitting tribute to Dada and Inidan cricket lax, a nice read.
Somehow I never liked Sachin as the captain but I liked Dada. The other day I was just thinking that how Dhoni was so lucky to have become the captain of the Indian team so soon, having even won the T20 world cup after that. I was just wondering if it would've been different for Ganguly if we had won the finals against Aussies in the World cup, it certainly would've been.