Australian decline has proved that their dominance had more to do with the collective brilliance of a group of once-in-a-lifetime cricketers rather than any supposed superiority of their domestic cricket © Getty Images
Australian decline has proved that their dominance had more to do with the collective brilliance of a group of once-in-a-lifetime cricketers rather than any supposed superiority of their domestic cricket © Getty Images

 

By Akash Kaware

 

I started following cricket seriously from the 1996 World Cup, as a 12-year old. I do have memories of the 1992 edition as well – Imran Khan lifting the glittering trophy at Melbourne, Wasim Akram’s unplayable gems in the final and India’s victory over Pakistan. But I was too young at that time for those events to leave lasting impressions. The time I did reach that age was roughly the same time that Australia launched their domination of world cricket – a domination that lasted until 2009.

 

During this time, like many in the cricketing world, I loved to see Australia lose. And the reason was not any kind of antipodean aversion, but the fact that it took something special to beat these guys, and that always made for riveting contests.

 

An Australian defeat in those days meant that you were watching some high-quality cricket. It usually took something like VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid’s Kolkata miracle, or Brian Lara’s Bridgetown epic, or Sachin Tendulkar’s Sharjah gems or England’s sustained hostility in 2005 to bring down the mighty Australians.

 

Fast forward to 2011, and there’s no joy left in seeing Australia beaten. No disrespect to England, they are a good side, but frankly, there’s nothing much to crow about beating this Australian side, even in their own backyard. (I’m talking about the Ashes thrashing of course, not the current one-day series where both Australia and England seem to have gone back to more traditional roles!)

 

While some may derive a perverse pleasure in Australia’s fall, and the subsequent disarray their entire cricketing structure seems to be in, as an Indian, what I see is a cautionary tale.

 

Every cricket commentator in Australia will give you umpteen reasons for the downturn, and each of them might have some degree of truth, but the simple fact is – no team can lose the players of the caliber of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn and sustain the same results that these gifted bunch of players achieved.

 

And if that is true, a similar downturn awaits India when Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman (and sometime later, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh) bid adieu. They may not have formed an all-conquering outfit like the Australians did, but they, and of course Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly, did make India a formidable force in world cricket. And the question, ‘After them, who?’ would draw a similar blank as the one Australia draws right now.

 

They might have grabbed their chances in the one-dayers when the seniors were away, but do any of us seriously think the next generation of Indian batting, Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara can stand up to an examination like the one Tendulkar survived against a rampant Dale Steyn recently in Cape Town, or play second-innings blinders like the ones Laxman seemed to have patented in 2010?

 

The bowling will be even greater reason for worry. Ishant Sharma and Shantakumaran Sreesanth look talented enough, but their need for Zaheer’s comforting presence at mid-off is rather disturbing.

 

For years, everyone said that the reason Australia did so well for 15 years was that they had a solid domestic structure in place, which produced battle-hardened cricketers ready for the grind of international cricket. But their decline has proved that their dominance had more to do with the collective brilliance of a group of once-in-a-lifetime cricketers rather than any supposed superiority of their domestic cricket.

 

India, of course, have never been accused of having a sound domestic structure, or even caring for one, and everyone knows that their current No. 1 ranking is largely the handiwork of a talented bunch of seniors than any meticulous planning. Do we really need a crystal ball to see that India might soon go down the same road once the legends have finally had enough?

 

Indian fans should revel in their team’s No. 1 ranking while it lasts, because if Australia’s fall is any indication, then when India’s golden generation ride into the sunset, they will take that ranking with them!

 

(Akash Kaware is a 26-year old IT professional, who would’ve been a wonderful international cricketer if it hadn’t been for an annoying tendency to run towards square-leg while facing tennis, rubber or leather cricket balls hurled at anything at more than medium-pace! Watching Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid convinced him that breaking into the Indian team was not going to happen anytime soon and hence settled to become an Engineer and MBA, who occasionally wrote about cricket. Two months ago, sensing his uselessness and constant use of cricket websites at work, his company banished him to Canada. His hopes of playing international cricket have, thus, been renewed! Now if only the winter and snow would get out of the way… )