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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Paradigm Shifts

Big Gun, Number One!


It may have been a long way to the top, as AC/DC once sang but Team India’s refreshing attitude has perched them atop the Test Cricket world thanks to a consistent record in the last decade
Tags : Australia | India | Test team | Dravid | Laxman | Sehwag |

They say that Australia saved Test Cricket in the new millennium with their aggressive brand of cricket and near invincible record chiseled by the blades of some of the best batsmen ever to play the game and the crafted by the fingers of two peerless bowlers. Balderdash!
The Aussies would have killed Test Cricket as a two sided contest had one team not risen to their challenge time and again and ultimately taken over their tag of being the No. 1 in the world – Team India. It all began with a cracking series in India in 2001, where rising from the ashes of a walloping in Mumbai and the first innings of the Kolkata Test, the phoenix called the Indian Test team rose to conquer the Aussies who were on a 16 Test winning streak. And then India went to England and won, went to Australia in 2003 and won, went on a historic tour to Pakistan in 2004 and won and the ascendancy continued as it coincided with the prime of the finest generation of batsmen India had seen (Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag and The Master) along with the emergence of a new spunk in the bowling attack (Kumble held steady as Harbhajan and Zaheer came into their own). Ex-cricketer Nikhil Chopra tells TSI, “For last 6-7 years, experienced legends like Tendulkar, Mahinder Singh Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh have been playing together. These legends have made what Indian cricket team is today. Playing in one team together at one time really makes a difference.” The statistics cut a long story short. India have won 108 tests in their entire 78 year test history. Forty-seven of those have come in the period between 2000-2010. India have only 35 victories away from home; 21 of those have come in the last 10 years. India have racked up two wins each in Australia (one famously at Perth in 2008) and England. Before you say ‘So what?’, consider that India had won only one test against Australia in Australia between 1981 and 2001 and only two against England in England in the same period. If that doesn’t represent a paradigm shift, I don’t know where else would the phrase fit without sounding banal.
The hard numbers tell you only half the story, though. The attitudinal paradigm shift has really been the ingredient that has made all the difference. Bowlers have been hostile, the fielding sharp and the batsmen unforgiving. Training and coaching may have played its part but belief and courage cannot be taught. The former must be ingrained and the latter mustered in far away lands when the team is in trouble. Nothing exemplifies it more than India’s fightback and eventual win at Adelaide in 2003 (Dravid was the hero, supported outstandingly by Laxman and Agarkar) and their consummate riposte at Perth (a virtual Australian fortress) in 2008 after ‘Sydneygate’.

The ICC Rankings have India justifiably at the top if you take the long term view of the past half a decade or so. But the real challenge that lies ahead is the transition. The golden batsmen and the bowlers who got the team there are gone, or on their way out and their enormous shoes need filling. Much of the way ahead will be illuminated by what India’s comeback in South Africa (where they just lost the first test by an innings) looks like. The critics said India couldn’t win overseas. We did and touched the pinnacle. Now for the new generation to believe that ‘Yes, we can…continue!’

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017