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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Edition 12: We are the Champions


What scenes we witnessed last week at Eden Gardens. Most office system administrators would have complained about heavy load on the network due to constant updates on cricinfo or cricket nirvana. Bhajji sealed the win, with last wicket in the penultimate over.
Most of us had given up looking at comfort level Amla and Morkel had during the innings. But in cricket all that you need one deliver for a batsman to get out. Thats the beauty of the game. Of course, the match situation and the bowler/captain's previous strategies to set up a wicket do count. Such things make test cricket special than say ODI or T20 where all it matters is to hit boundaries. Of course that's also an excitement but these scenes of great defense or holding up an end for 8 hrs like what Amla did is also fun for cricket lovers like me.
How many of us would prefer a pizza or a burger over tasty but simple home food like dal roti or pithale bhakri. Once in a while for change maybe we can opt for the junk food. Test cricket is also enjoyable. For that matter every version has a room, be it ODI or T20 or test. What we need is a balance. People in US get crazy over the fact that a game can go on for 5 days and yet there can be no result. In commercial world, it makes no sense. Also it's a national wastage of time resource. But still we love test cricket. We have generations growing over test cricket. I don't want to argue merit of other sports over cricket.
Fact is that Cricket has caught our imagination and so be it. There is no reason to be ashamed. Is US fan ashamed of the fact that their domestic teams play World Series for a sport which is only played in US? And its special when we know that India will win test no 1 prize this year, after 7 years of Australian dominance since its inception.
We flash back to the days of 80s and 90s. Then you had dominant teams like WI, Pakistan decimating us in India as also abroad. Even moderate teams like England or Australia used to compete hard here and defeated us abroad. We had great players in Gavaskar, Kapil, vengsarkar and fighters like Mohinder ,Madanlal, Kirmani. But we were at bottom of heirrarchy ahead of newborns Sri Lanka and kiwis.
In came 90s with decline of WI and rise of Australia under AB. We were completely sold on to ODIs with advent of satellite TV and liberalization with Sachin as national Icon. Our past ODI successes under Kapil, Gavaskar in 83 and 85 really started this phenomenon. But we also invented a formula : In Home test we had tailor made tracks where even Rajesh chauhan or a Raju could have won us game single handedly. It was fortune to have world class operator like Kumble to make a kill. But in overseas tour: 19 for 4 , or at best 50 for 2 , were the normal score lines.
The opening pairs were innumerable. We used to witness master class from Sachin in a losing cause. Some times an aggressive knock from Azhar or Kapil or VVS. All this happened till our horror show in Aus at the turn of millennium. Nadir was the lost home series against Proteas, (famous later for other reasons than those in the stadiums).
Ganguly is the man who changed the things. We anticipated this dawn when Sachin was made captain. But that did not work out. Some things never work out in life as we expect.
Ganguly, Kumble, VVS and Dravid were part of that team as well. But they were young, unproven and even their places were not granted. With advent of Ganguly, we started winning overseas. We had batsmen who could face music of fast bowlers. We had good pace men taking wickets and spinners who could be effective. Ganguly had an eye for talent and guts to back them.
Thus we had talent of Sehwag, Yuvraj, Bhajji, Zaheer, Dhoni (also not to forget Irfan, Balaji, Nehra, Parthiv) nurtured and matured. This is the core now even of the No1 test team today, in addition to the master class of Tendulkar, VVS, Dravid as well Kumble and Ganguly himself. This class had work ethics, attitude, resolve, which rubbed off on to juniors and took Indian cricket out of fixing chaos, home paper tiger status, poor traveler baggage. But only thing this batch has to achieve is an ICC trophy (only one shared champion's trophy to show).
T20 world cup winning team did not have any representation from this class. The last standing survivor of this batch has last chance in 2011. And I think that will be a great tribute, swansong and most romantic vision for all cricket lovers. This will be tribute to not only SRT but also to all five.
Another person who owes tribute is John Wright who backed Ganguly and his protégés. And also to board and selectors for backing Ganguly (of course they had some ulterior motive then under King of Calcutta). Then we had a debacle in form of Chappell-Dravid era. On test arena it did not hamper much apart from defeat in Pakistan, home series leveling against England and Pakistan.
Then injuries started creeping up for Tendulkar. Sehwag who later emerged under Kumble after Sydney test regaining his greatness was eclipsed in this period. Irfan faded; Zaheer had injury and fitness issues.
Bhajji was taken out of equation. Worst suffered loss was in World cup 07. But few credits must be given to Dravid for his conduct in Chappell and post Chappell era. We had success for first time in South Africa though we lost next two tests. We had series win in WI. We beat Srilanka at home. In Post chapel era we won series in England.
In came Dhoni with T20 success, but it was resolve of Kumble who was overlooked for captaincy. I think we could have much better results had he been given longer stint. Famous Sydney test started another chapter of decline of Australia. We beat them at Perth.
Its been a steady rise along with decline of Australia. So it resulted in a pack of Australia, India and SA at top with England just behind. . For india, we agree that we are not the best team now. We are yet to reach that level. We might be on top of rankings for now. But as long as we are able to win a series in SA and Australia there will be a debate about the real supremacy.



Author runs a blog http://nayakgiri.blogspot.com/

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