Conquering Down Under
In a nation that is simply crazy about cricket, with neighbour uncles advocating their expertise on the game and the team, with superstitions plaguing the vast supporters and with the crackers bursting on wins and air of gloom prevalent upon losing – the nation's sensitivity towards the game cannot be scaled. Like football of South America, cricket has been a religion, and quite rightly, we have been brought to the edge of our seats every time India takes the field. We have been privileged to witness some great sides over the time, who have inspired every other child to pick up the sport during childhood. Be it Ajit Wadekar's team of twin triumph in West Indies and England in 1971, Kapil Dev's or Rahul Dravid's team winning in England in 1986 or 2007, all of them have graced the Test format and left India elated by scripting their names in record books. And, so does the rightfully positioned current Indian team. Kohli-led side, an appropriate mixture of experienced and young players, did what no Asian team has done yet. India is the first Asian team to beat Australia in a test series in Australia in 71 years. The long-standing might of Australia's pacy and bouncy seaming tracks have always hushed Indian batsmen, while the bowling department has always succumbed to the mighty hitters of note-worthy Australian sides. But no more! India conquered the Down Under version of Border-Gavaskar trophy by concluding the series 2-1, following no result from the fourth and final test match. Back in India, the hype for a complete white-wash with a third victory over the Oz that thrilled the mammoth fan-base might have been lost, yet the current conclusion is also a moment of immense pride. This current crop of players with their astute captain, to whom the credit goes for squad rotation as well as improvisation, has definitely etched their names in the golden history of the game. This also brings Kohli the fame of being the only captain in Asia to have beaten South Africa, England and Australia in away test series in a single calendar year. Indeed, remarkable. Kohli has already been awarded the Khel Ratna for his impressive performance in cricket owing to his explosive batting prowess, which has already drawn sizeable comparisons to Tendulkar. However, Down Under was all about his decisiveness and team gameplay more than his explosive batting prowess. And in terms of credit too, it is the entire Indian team who deserves the spotlight. Impeccable bowling, young players' performances and a winning mentality have drawn a beautiful picture for Indians down south. Be it Bumrah's seamers or Pujara's impregnable batting, India's performance has been the centre for this victory. While India has been flying in the wind with dream performances, Australia has suffered beneath the absence of stars such as Warner and Smith who are serving the infamous suspension. Adding to that has been Justin Langer's not so exciting team selection that can be put as an aggregate of recent but low-scoring performers who managed an abysmal run tally for the series – highest Oz batsman scored 79 – drawing a sorry figure in front of the impressive batsmen that the country has boasted about with Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, and even Sir Don Bradman. Absolutely average batting could still have been saved by an impressive spinning, however, Nathan Lyon's impressive 16 wickets in first two tests could not carry the same energy for the last two which saw him only garner 5 wickets. Perth test had witnessed Kohli decide in favour of seamers and no frontline spinner, which turned against them as Lyon ran riot on the pitch. Aussies drew parlance in Perth and Kohli changed the gameplan for Melbourne, something that even the oz could not cope with. Hindsight shows how Kohli's changed the Indian openers, who impressed as they saw off the new ball. Hanuman Vihari managed 8 out of 66 balls but if you ask Kohli, he did the necessary. Indian middle order could beat the ball posing a 443-7 and declaring only to blow Australia all-out for 151. India had the control over the game in MCG and it concluded in a win, and a historic win eventually. The same energy was prevalent in Sydney when India smashed 622 and forced Australia to follow-on in their home for the first time in 30 years. From the looks of it, rain saved a successive defeat for Australia and statistics will corroborate to that. Australian bowlers had to bowl more overs displaying India's improved batting while the Indian bowlers grabbed wickets to reduce the opponent to a precarious situation, from where the rain thumped a 'no result' for the fourth test. Nevertheless, India delighted under tough overseas conditions and the victory picture spreads the excitement back home through dailies and social media. The first overseas Border-Gavaskar trophy comes home, finally!