The Australian test series saw Virat scoring four hundreds, Rahane getting to his century, leading many to believe India will do better, but they only got worse. Exactly one and a half months and a series ago, India showed itself as just another team in the Carlton mid tri-series, playing against Australia and England, where they lost every other match they played against these two teams. Indians were a shoddy bowling unit, projected a frail top-order, a less than mediocre middle order, and ended up as a disappointed team with no hopes of a turn-around anytime soon.
It all happened right here, on the Australian pitches, when the assemblies of blue in the stands were forced to let out noisy grunts, of anger and disenchantment. They did not expect this from the 2011 World Cup champions and definitely this was not the cricket they had seen India play. M S Dhoni was let down by his team and so were the millions of fans trying to cheer the flailing performers.
But why did this happen? And how did this happen. There is a very simple and easy analogy to it. The players were on the Australian pitches way too long, away from their homes. They performed well in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but failed miserably when it came to the ODI format where they struggled to get themselves out there. They were fatigued and out of good rest, little home support and had the big World Cup on its way.
There were paragraphs of criticism from the pundits and angry cricket fanatics; there were heart-breaking memes over the internet, thrashing the team for their inability to ‘deliver’, quite literally. News websites became unabashedly reproachful and the conventional next-door-uncle glanced at the sports section in the newspaper, eating popcorn in a moving train, casually exclaiming that the team was never going to get anywhere. He was wrong.
The Men in Blue have easily erased the bad memories, by not just defeating every other team in the group stages and the quarter finals, but by ‘bowling ‘em all out’! What went right with the team is what nobody is talking about. The fact that the bowlers have stepped up their game is quite evident. But the batsmen have done their bit, so have the fielders and our very own ‘captain cool’, M S Dhoni who has been the core of this victory albeit the individual performances have turned heads. India has pushed itself to face the winner of five World Cups, Australia in the semi-finals and is a class-apart.
Suddenly everyone has forgotten the days of seething anger and searing pain these players went through, the bashing media thrusting their pens in the players’ noses and cameras flashing at their faces, as if to pronounce the committing of a crime. Everyone is bathing themselves and the team in the glory of the ‘70 wicket in 7 games’ scenario, with seven straight wins and seventy wickets to their credit.
Right now, all that matters is India finishing this game against Australia in the best possible manner. I saw tense faces all around when I walked to work, most of them in blue and some sitting by the side-walks, patiently listening to the commentary on their phones and transistors. This part of India has not changed. It never will and it never can.
I should mention the anticipation of the billions looking for a path-breaking record of ’90 wickets in 9 games’ and of course, to retain the Cup.
But to get there, we need to bid farewell to the Australians, boys.