What a cricket match that was! Even for those of us who love to daydream about impossible feats accomplished by our favourite sportsstars or national teams, what happened at Gabba in Brisbane – the cricketing fortress of Australia – is nothing less than a fairytale. It was a rare moment in sporting history when 11 Indians defied all odds to beat a fiercely competitive Australian team in their own backyard.
With all their frontline bowlers out of the side due to injuries and captain Virat Kohli on paternity leave, most of the cricketing pundits had already predicted a crushing defeat, especially after the humiliating batting collapse in the Adelaide Test. But, then, when all the elements were hostile towards them, led by a calm but fiercely competitive novice-looking Indian team with quite a few debutants and others with just a few Test matches under their belt, they displayed such fighting spirit that the Aussies were completely bamboozled. The frustrated opponents were seen taking refuge in their infamous tactics of sledging in the name of banter while some of their ex cricketers took potshots at the more experienced players in the commentary box. But Rahane’s lion cubs refused to be deterred by all these distractions. They proved that they are strong and skilled enough to face the big boys, and, in fact, give it back to them with great finesse.
For the purists, it was great advertisement for Test cricket. The fortunes kept swinging session after session, but the spirit shown by the Indians won the hearts of all. When Pant hit the winning runs to lift the Border-Gavaskar cricket trophy, it was perhaps the beginning of a new era in Indian cricket. Perhaps it is the beginning of a decade of domination by India as it had happened earlier with West Indies or Australia, teams which had a long period of domination in international cricket. If the 1983 World Cup victory can be defined as the resurgence of cricket per se in India, and Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy followed by Dhoni’s unique leadership as turning points in India’s cricketing evolution, the dream run of team India in Australia this year could possibly lead to another turning point where the Indian team will refuse to accept defeat under any circumstances, and the team in itself will be a bigger star than all the superstars put together. Someone aptly remarked that India can now field two teams touring separate countries at the same time. This was almost what the scene was when the West Indies was at its prime in the ’70s and ’80s. Australia also had a huge talent pool to choose from when they dominated world cricket in the past decades.
Now, the real power of India’s demographic dividend is on full display, at least in cricket. The financial muscle of BCCI and the effective investment of resources to popularise and support domestic cricket at all age levels have started to yield visible results. Talents like Mohammad Siraj, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini, and Thangarasu Natarajan have proved that there is no place for nepotism and favouritism in Indian cricket. Talent, from wherever it may be, will get equal opportunity to wear the blue jersey if they are prepared to work hard. There is such hunger and fearlessness that when the opportunity presented itself, the newbies pounced on it like a group of school kids on free candy and shocked the complacent Aussies who, perhaps, couldn’t even fathom what hit them at their home turf!
But a lot of the success of this incredible performance goes to the original ‘Wall of India’, Mr Dependable, Rahul Dravid, who coached the India A and India Under-19 sides. He helped the young talents in their formative years to develop both technique and temperament to join the senior players, all set to win matches and hearts. There are so many learning points from this historic win, but, for me, the biggest takeaways are: always believe in your own abilities; one good teacher can shape an entire generation; never take anything for granted; if you have toiled hard and have great self-belief, the doubting Thomases will always eat humble pie and nothing can ever give more joy than winning it for your team and your nation!