Australia are set to take on India in a series of seven One-Day Internationals (ODI) and a one-off T20 International (T20I). Former players and cricket pundits have voiced their verdict, calling it a cakewalk for the Indians, especially since Australia would be missing their best player of spin, Michael Clarke. Aayush Puthran, however feels it won’t be surprising if the Australians do put up a good fight, but the challenge lies in reigniting the lost aggression in the India-Australia cricket battles more than anything else.
Whether the present-day cricket is devoid of big stars or is the game devoid of good cricket is something worth pondering over. With India being the subject of contention, years of rivalry with Pakistan made for some tense finishes and gripping battles. Yes, there were enough political tensions tagging along with it, but the competition on the green field of play was intense enough to attract people.
Over the last decade, the India-Australia rivalry came close and many a times even edged all the other cricketing rivalries in the world for the sheer intensity of their battles. With a dash of Sachin Tendulkar here and a Ricky Ponting there, there were enough reasons for cricket fans to gather outside an electronic showroom to catch some live action on TV, or for a passerby on the road to ask you the score.
However, all of this, in no subtle ways, is fading away. Yes, we have come to terms with the fact that while playing against Australia, it is not too tough to fancy a series win. With Pakistan, the case becomes even more curious, and in all the political battles, cricket seems like a neglected child. However, regardless of their fall from the top rung, Pakistan beat India earlier this year in the One-Day International (ODI) series. Australia, too, might have been whitewashed in India earlier in the year in Tests, but that came on the back of a similar treatment they had meted out to the Indians Down Under in 2011-12. Even then, India were the favourites and many voices had called for a 4-0 thrashing of the Australians in their own backyard. In the subsequent tri-series too, Australia showed their might.
Such things make it obvious that barring a temporary hiccup, there isn’t a great margin of quality in play. And putting the lack of intensity in these matches down to a dearth of superstars would be a bit harsh on the likes of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and others. There is clearly a lack of aggression that is killing the interest in the game more than anything else.
Deba Prasad Dhar cleverly pointed it out and wrote in the Mumbai Mirror how the new team under George Bailey seem like ambassadors of peace more than anything else. “Far from making brash statement like his predecessors, Bailey is very much an ambassador of peace. ‘We are very polite,’ he [Bailey] said as if acknowledging the assumption about his style,” he wrote.
The statement comes in stark contrast from the ones made by the Australian sides that toured the country in the last one and a half decade. Their statements were good enough to irk the fans and who wished to watch the new-age India, who had learnt to shed timidity, give it back to the opposition.
One really wonders if it is due to tournaments like the Indian Premier League (IPL), that harbour so much camaraderie in the dressing room, that the level of intensity falls when the players play for their respective nations. Does the camaraderie or the familiarity of one another make it tough to pose challenges with riling words?
Whatever is said and done, wherever the current form and rankings of both teams lie, it wouldn’t be surprising if Australia do put up a decent fight in the upcoming series against India. But one really wonders whether the series will reignite the lost intensity in their battles.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)