With the Border-Gavaskar Trophy firmly inside Team India’s bag, the harshest of the critics have also converted into devout followers of this ‘New’ team. The hammering that India received at the hands of both England & Australia, in the past 13-14 months, had surely left a deep scar in its already scant reputation as poor tourists but the recent success stories, although scripted at home, against the ‘inexperienced’ team from Down Under is a step towards healing some of those wounds. So, you have a brand new avatar of the skipper MS Dhoni who hitherto had been known by the sobriquet ‘Captain Cool’. He is not the one holding back his emotions anymore, he is ever ready to give a piece of mind to any kind of glitch on the field, ever ready to appeal for a catch or an LBW, hyper-active with field placements and most important, urging the team to display attacking intent, right from the word go. However, he hasn’t forgotten his basics especially that of backing exciting, young talents in whom he believes, a view Ravindra Jadeja would fully agree with. Well, the persistence with Jadeja has largely helped Team India usurp the Australians. His own form with the bat has been superb and Dhoni would definitely be the first one to admit that this turnaround is largely credited to changing his guard to his strength: attacking batting that sends the opposition into hiding. His 224 in the first test was seriously a knock-out punch in the face of the Aussies, something they haven’t recovered from till date. Choosing the right team combination has also been his plus point and he has always read the pitch better than his equally enterprising counterpart, Michael Clarke.
The current victories have been achieved on the back of solid contributions from all the eleven members with the exception of Sehwag. With the long rope that he was given, it was time he came good but the Delhi Dasher flattered to deceive in the two tests that he played and was promptly replaced by his not so illustrious state-mate, Shikhar Dhawan. On a lively Mohali pitch, Dhawan quickly made the world forget the void left by Sehwag and shattered the confidence of Australia with a masterly 187 in very little time. The opener in him had finally arrived, after years & years of neglect despite big scores in domestic cricket. The fact that he would be unavailable for his home crowd in Delhi is a different matter altogether, wherein another untold story could be narrated, if only Ajinkya Rahane could do perfect justice to his potential. Murali Vijay has played his part with back-to-back centuries in the last two tests after failing to fire in the series opener. He is hungrier for runs and is determined to clinch a permanent place in the test ranks. Pujara with his steely attitude & large appetite for runs is on a juggernaut, as he keeps on accumulating runs, match-after-match without much fuss. The Master Blaster, though in his last trail, looks good for another five years of international cricket, with the kind of commitment & passion he carries with him whenever on the field. He has duly taken over the mantle from the other senior players, as the sole guiding light for all the youngsters in the squad. Another noteworthy point is that this series has not been surrounded with talks of Sachin’s hundreds as the youth brigade has chipped in with handsome contributions, wherever & whenever needed.
Further down in the batting order, Virat Kohli has displayed patience befitting a classical test batsman. No one can doubt his technique; it is only the patience while batting for long hours in test matches that was found wanting earlier which has now been largely rectified. MS Dhoni’s exploits with the bat have already been talked about and to say that they have been only awe-inspiring would be an understatement. Even though Ashwin & Jadeja have not put their weight behind their respective batting so far in the series, they have contributed handsomely when it has come to bowling, with the former taking 22 & the latter taking 17 wickets in total upto the third test match. Jadeja, in particular, has been a revelation with his wicket-to-wicket bowling & intelligent use of the conditions on offer. The one thing that stands out is his dismissal of Clarke in almost all of the innings so far, given the fact that the Aussie skipper has been their best batsman in the past year & a half. The Turbanator, Bhajji has not exactly set the stage on fire but did quite well in the opportunities he got at Chennai & Hyderabad. Pragyan Ojha then played his part at Mohali. Ishant Sharma has looked good in patches & it is heartening to see that he is improving with every outing. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has displayed great control of swing & has used his main weapon to good effect by taking six wickets in all. His batting has also come good on a couple of occasions.
Team India is ‘teeming with a bundle of fresh, eye-catching talent’ who just need sufficient time to build reputations. While they may never reach the dizzying heights of a Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly, Kumble or a Tendulkar but their current showing augurs well for a big, bright future. While taking a realistic view of Team India, one would not forget the impending tour to South Africa in about six months time after which any sort of verdict could be passed. Having said that, there would be a lot to play for, when India take the field at Kotla, as they would now itch to finish the series at 4-0 rather than 3-0 or 3-1. The tour to South Africa will require meticulous & strategic preparation right after the fourth test gets over and it would be in India’s interest if that tour does not go off the radar in the interim melee of the IPL. The team would do well to guard itself against any sort of complacency after this resounding success at home. Also, if comparisons between the younger crop & the great players of the yesteryears can be made less frequent, the youngsters could try building on their unique identities & skill sets.
But, for the moment, just like billions of cricket-crazy Indian fans, I am also loving it!!!!