The year 2012 was a year that the Indian team as well as the fans would largely want to forget. The team played nine Tests, losing five, winning three and drawing one. MS Dhoni’s men were flattened in Australia and, worse, suffered a series defeat in India. After plumbing the depths in Australia, a huge void was left in the Indian middle-order when Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman decided to bid farewell to international cricket.
Throughout the year, the team struggled despite some fine performances from the young brigade in both versions of the game. The start of 2013 witnessed a One-Day International (ODI) series defeat against Pakistan, which was just a tipping point for the fans and media who started demanding a complete overhaul of the team specially the removal of Dhoni. Against this backdrop, the Australian team arrived in India for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Even though the Australian cricket team had lost the tag of being unbeatable especially in away matches, it was still a force to reckon with. Moreover, the way the Indian team was playing their cricket before the Aussie arrival, heightened the chances of the opposition.
The Aussies put up a solid 380 in the first innings at Chennai. The Indian openers didn’t trouble the scorers much. India were reduced to 12 for two and looked like taking a familiar path. It was left to Sachin Tendulkar to make sure India did not succumb to the hostile Australian pace attack. It took him just three shots to set the tone for the things to come.
True, the star of the show was the captain himself who was unstoppable along with Virat Kohli. However, the way Tendulkar humbled the Aussie pace battery with help of the sensible Cheteshwar Pujara paved the way for an Indian fight back. Dhoni silenced his critics, questioning his ability as a Test batsman, with an aggressive double hundred. The one thing that allowed India to seal the Test was its bowling. India were able to take 20 wickets. If the bowlers cannot dismiss the opposition twice then it’s highly unlikely that a team can hope to win a Test match. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were the men of the moment with the ball.
India hasn’t looked back since that first Test. It has won three Tests in a row to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Nobody can deny that India has also regained the hunger to win. That is what has rekindled the winning ways.
Some critics may argue that this is a weak Australian team and the real test will be against South Africa later this year. True, the Proteas will be a very tough opposition to beat at their home, but one cannot dismiss the Indian team’s recent performances. I don’t think that the Aussie bowling lacked the sting in the first two Tests. It’s just that the Indian batsmen handled the responsibility well and played better. There were times in this series when the Aussie bowling was on fire and runs were hard to come by but we just weathered the storm and fought to survive. Nobody can take that away from the Indian team.
This series win is a milestone after a very rough last year. The energy and the passion of the younger blood are evident. It seeps though the entire team allowing them to lifts their game. Veterans like Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will have to bat out of their skins in the domestic circuit to be able to reclaim a spot at the top as Pujara, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan have proved their talent. Tendulkar is still batting as skilfully. His presence is vital, especially since Dravid and Laxman have left the fort.
I have always believed that Dhoni is the right man to lead the team in all formats. You can like the man or you can hate him, but you cannot ignore him and his work ethic. It’s the pace attack that needs some new faces. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been a terrific find and would prove to be a great asset in foreign conditions. We need Varun Aaron, Shami Ahmed and Umesh Yadav to work on their fitness and start sharing the workload of the Indian pace attack.
Irrespective of the result of the fourth Test, the home team is looking formidable again. It was heart warming to watch them crush Australia. We now look forward to the tough battle with South Africa and just hope the IPL season doesn’t drain off all the newly found energy.
(Nipun Dixit is a Technology Analyst at Infosys, currently based in US. A Mechanical Engineer from Jaipur, Nipun is very passionate about cricket and music. He loves playing the acoustic guitar and writing songs. Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler are his favorites. He is a voracious reader across wide variety of subjects and writes occasionally on various subjects. Cricket, however, remains his first love)