By Rohit Gore
Malcolm Gladwell, that most maverick of the social scientists, has spoken and written about a phenomena called ‘The Tipping Point’. It is basically, the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point, when things alter beyond recognition. Like water suddenly becoming steam. Like a post on Facebook suddenly transforming into a revolution. In many ways, years down the line when the cricket historians review Indian cricket, I think they might conclude that the second day of the Sydney Test was The “Tipping Point”.
This greatest of Indian cricket teams is on the cusp of either their grandest turnaround story, even more fascinating than the miracle of Eden Gardens in 2001, or their unstoppable descent into the abyss of cricketing mediocrity. The fact that it has come in Sydney, where this team has found their spiritual home away from home, makes it poetic. To make it a landmark, this is the 100th Test at the hallowed ground of this breathtakingly beautiful metropolis.
Let’s look at the horror scenario first up, because I don’t want to end this article on a bitter note. The Australians led by their inspirational captain, who until now was perhaps a little more known for his liaisons with supermodels and metrosexual lifestyle, have crafted an innings of immense cricketing character, fortitude and beauty.
The titanic Ricky Ponting has made a poignant century which I believe will forever make him smile in his ripe old age. He will cherish this one the most. Australia is unlikely to bat again in this Test. The most probable and perhaps inevitable Tipping Point is that Indian batsmen will implode and not survive the energetic and no-holds barred burst from the young Australian bowling attack led by a kid who wasn’t even born when Sachin Tendulkar started his Test cricket career, and who now claims that the master is intimidated by his pace and bounce. The Aussies have had a wood on Rahul Dravid for a long time now. They haven’t allowed him to play an innings of immense value since the tour of 2003-04 barring a crucial innings in Perth, 2008. Tendulkar, well he can’t do it all on his own, can he? He might succumb to the relentless pressure of the tumbling wickets at the other end. The Aussie pacemen believe they have sorted out the enigma of VVS Laxman and perhaps they have. Not much can be expected from the rest of the men in the line-up.
The end-game? India loses by an innings and some. This “Tipping Point” scenario will ensure a 4-0 loss. And none of the remaining Tests would be close. We shouldn’t be surprised if nobody from India scores a hundred in the series and neither takes a four wicket haul. This humiliation will surely break a few spirits in the team. The clamor for the ‘creaking terminators’ to retire would be loud and unstoppable. This great team of 2000s would end their journey with humiliation and bitterness. It will take a long time for Indian cricket to rebuild a team that can compete outside the subcontinent. Since over the next two years we are primarily playing at home, everyone might think that the Australian disaster would be quickly forgotten. Not so, unfortunately. South Africa have always enjoyed Test success in India and in Dale Steyn they have the greatest fast bowler since Dennis Lillee, Malcolm Marshall and Wasim Akram, who can rip through India’s fragile top and middle-order. England wouldn’t be the pushovers they have always been, with many blokes in their team capable of playing any spin bowling attack that does not have Anil Kumble in it.
In short, this “Tipping Point” will ensure a long and tortuous decline in India’s Test cricket relevance.
The other scenario, the one for the romantics, is so fascinating! In this version of the “Tipping Point”, the most feted and celebrated Indian batting will stare at the forces of darkness and fight hard. They would fight long. They wouldn’t give up. Sehwag will tell the world that he, and not Vivian Richards, is the greatest destroyer of bowling. Gambhir will battle the demons in his head and demonic ‘nick’ of his bat, and start his transition from being merely very good to being a true great.
And yes, the Holy Trinity of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman would make their last stand against an old enemy. They would build ramparts around their wickets that would not be breached. They would fire cannons in the enemy ranks that would send shivers down their spines. They would each conjure a magical innings that would be spoken about in the world for ages to come. They would not fail.
If this Tipping Point were to come true, we won’t lose this series. We will have an Indian team that would walk into the setting sun with their heads held high, smiles on their faces and cheered on by a grateful country. They would pass on the baton, the torch of Indian cricket to a new generation over this year with a sense of fulfilment. The younger generation would draw immense inspiration from the legends of Sydney when the revered Gods of Indian cricket charted their destiny with their mighty acts of defiance.
On that note, I want to sign off this article with an odd mix of cold dread and a romantic hope in my heart.
(Rohit Gore is the author of Focus, Sam and the recently-released A Darker Dawn. He loves sports, specifically discussing & watching, since his playing days are long gone. His greatest passion for reading has inspired him to write. He has a keen interest in history, especially the history of music and arts. You can know more about him on his website or by following him on Twitter and Facebook )