For an Indian living in Australia, the last four months have been all about the Indian cricket team touring Down Under. Four months is a long time in today’s age of condensed tours and back-to-back matches. Even long enough for Dhoni to feel they had earned the right to honorary citizenship.
In this period, the Indian cricket team treated us to a fair share of heartbreaks, stirring performances, mind-numbing losses, and hope-inspiring comebacks. On Thursday, when Umesh Yadav was finally castled by Mitchell Starc under the SCG lights, it brought an end to not just India’s valiant World Cup campaign, but also their prolonged Australian summer.
Looking back on the last four months, there has been an undeniable buzz created by the Indians in the minds of the Australian public. Immediately springing to mind are personal conversations and public pronouncements made through the course of the summer. All of these serve as markers for India’s spirited, brave, but ultimately ill-fated, campaign in Australia.
Indian cricket team’s ultimate test in whites:
“But do they really care about the Test series? I think they are here for the World Cup.”
– Border-Gavaskar Trophy, 1st Test Match, Adelaide
This was a water-cooler discussion at office with an Australian colleague. We were discussing the beginning of a potentially fascinating Test series, but my colleague was not impressed. He was voicing a popular sentiment in Australia (and possibly, elsewhere) about the Indian cricket team. They are not really focused on Test cricket. They come from the land of the IPL. They are much more comfortable in the shorter formats of the game. And they don’t travel well.
Some of these points are justified. Our last overseas Test series was a forgettable affair in England. We have a historically poor Test record in Australia. And our captain decided to call time on his Test career to focus on ODIs and T20s mid-way through this series.
But did they care about these four Test matches played this summer? Over the course of the Test series, the Indian cricket team displayed intent and defiance to prove that they did care. Each match was fought tooth-and-nail, with a huge amount of emotional and mental investment from the players. The batsmen routinely put up 400+ first innings scores, and kept getting into the Australian cricketers’ faces. The end result was still a 2-0 series loss for India, but it hadn’t been for a lack of commitment. The subsequent ODI triangular, however, was a different matter altogether.
“When an Aussie sledges it’s aggression, but if an Indian sledges it’s unnecessary and foolish.”
– Border-Gavaskar Trophy, 2nd Test Match, Brisbane
VVS Laxman, ex-India batsman, plunderer of Australian bowling, and now a burgeoning media personality. His tweet was one in a deluge of opinions that swamped the media channels during the topsy-turvy second Test at Brisbane. Against all expectations, the first day had belonged to India, and the rookie Australian captain Steve Smith was under pressure. His bowlers responded on the second day, but it still remained a close encounter as Australia stumbled in their own first innings. In walked Mitchell Johnson to bat, and the Indians went at him with both mouth and ball. He responded in kind with a match-turning 88, and followed that up with a fiery 4-wicket haul in the second innings.
Were the Indians wrong to stir a sleeping giant? Should they have avoided the verbal assault on the Aussies? Did their aggression get the better of them? Opinion was divided. Ex-players like Sunil Gavaskar wanted an end to India being sucked into playing the ‘Aussie manner’. Dhoni said he didn’t mind ‘a bit of chirping’, and people like VVS Laxman questioned the unfairness of it all.
But the bottomline was that the Indian cricket team did get carried away with their aggression, lost grasp of the cricketing basics, and as a result, lost control of the match and a pivotal phase of the entire Test series.
So a good learning for the Indian test team either ways , but fans of the longer format are still waiting for performances from our test team that will match the promise.