When the Indian Cricket Team sealed a 1-0 victory in the test series (before mauling them 3-1 in the ODI‘s and it could have been easily 2-0 in tests) in Wellington, we probably did not realize that an entire generation or to be even more precise, an era witnessed history being scripted in the land of the indomitable Kiwis.
The very fact that this has not been accomplished for the last 41 years, speaks volumes about the greatness of this achievement. And since I have been an avid admirer and critic of our Indian Team (ever since I played cricket for a very brief period in the CAB under 16 & 17 tournaments or when I have enjoyed the glorious sport as just a mere spectator), I think it would be apt on my part, to pay rich tributes to this Indian Team, which is blossoming under the mercurial leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
We all have seen our Indian Team, emerging from being the minnows to the underdogs till we came to the forefront as favorites. And many would agree with me that all said and done, we have never been a great force to reckon with, in spite of possessing prodigious talents such as Sachin, and rare gems like Dada, The Wall, VVS, Harbhajan and Sehwag, to name a few. Even when former greats like Gavaskar and Kapil were ruling the roost, we were always considered to be a bunch of exceptionally talented players, who were extremely inconsistent (despite ‘Tournament Winning’ performances in World Cup, 1983 and World Championships, 1985) and under performed when required, especially overseas where we had to bite the dust on numerous occasions. We have watched some magnificent exploits on field, from some of the finest players, the world of cricket has ever seen. But all these attributes notwithstanding, we were always considered as one of the best, but certainly nowhere near the Best.
All that is gradually changing now and especially after the victory in New Zealand, I can sense an aura of invincibility, engulfing our minds. I might be over ambitious, but I am certainly not lacking in confidence, when I say this. One of the major concerns that confronted Indian Cricket team in the last 15 years has undoubtedly been Captaincy and lack of quality openers, in both versions of the game. And this seems to be slowly turning out to be our biggest strengths. We have always had and will continue to have, great players, probably extraordinary players who can carry the Indian Torch for years to come, but our search for a great captain has always been explicit. We had skippers, but they all were reluctant and that compounded our problems. A reluctant leader can never motivate his team and is a threat to the team’s morale. But Dhoni seems to be the answer for all our questions, which have been lingering in our minds, for more than a few years now. And I am glad we found him. Gambhir is developing in to a very skilled craftsman and if he can be consistent, along with Sehwag, they would definitely leave a legacy behind, which could be talked about for years. A Champion side needs a formidable opening partnership. Be it the Windies in 70’s or the Australians from the late 80’s till now, both had fantastic opening bats. Their success has been critical to the team’s overall performance and statisticians would unanimously nod their heads for this piece. And the arrival of youngsters has helped the team to jell together and perform as one unit.
Dhoni‘s captaincy may not be very appealing, but it certainly has been effective and beginning to deliver results. We could easily question his abilities as a batsman (purely on his technique and shot making), but as long as the runs come and the outcome is favorable, his presence would be a great asset for the team. At least, this has been true so far. He still has a long way to go, but till date, his resume is probably the most impressive of all.
I am still a bit worried about couple of factors, especially in the Test arena. Another 2-3 years and the test side would lose some of its most reliable pillars for the last 20 years. Sachin, Dravid, and Laxman would be on their way out, and suddenly our test squad may look ordinary. We have to be consistent in all conditions, and at the same time build a dependable bench, who could come in for our stalwarts. And this for me is India’s biggest challenge in the progressing years.
This is the beginning of a new era in Indian cricket. And this team is already being hailed as THE Best Indian side to have set foot on a cricket field (Many might debate this but the situation demands logical reasoning). Let us hope that this ushers a new wave of energy and exuberance in our brand of cricket, which would eventually catapult us to the top of the world.