The lions have aged and retired… the cubs still to mature into lions… the territory is up for grabs… Every week there is a new number one in the rankings these days… these indeed are exciting times for cricket and the top of the table was never as open as now…
Australia is no longer the powerhouse it used to be, their aura of invincibility shattered. The 6-0 series lead notwithstanding the fear of the Kangaroos is gone… The Indians defeated them 2-0 in 2008 in India which incidentally was their worst defeat in 25 years. The South Africans beat them in their own den. The top spot in all forms of the game is open for all and there is going to be an interesting race in the coming two years which will firmly establish who is the best. The Sri Lankans are the only other team that may harbour any such aspirations of trying to contest this claim of the top team in the world but for that their overseas record needs to improve.
That leaves us with two contenders, the Proteas and the Indians.
The Proteas have always been a bunch of hardened cricketers who always give their best however they have always been humiliated time and again by the Aussies and even though they beat the Aussies in their backyard for the first time last year the Aussies promptly exacted their revenge. Over a period they have never matched up against Australia and so we need to see if they can do this over a consistent period of time. The one problem South Africa face is their selection policy with quota’s and second their over dependence on just seam bowling. However the emergence of Johan Botha and Paul Harris augurs well for them. They have some exciting youngsters and it will be interesting times for them as they seem to have finally got the Australian monkey over their back.
However lets take a look at India’s fortunes more closely…
India started playing test cricket in 1932 and from then to the November of the year 2000 India had won just 13 Test matches abroad. We always had a couple of stylish batsmen and a bunch of excellent spinners with maybe a seamer thrown in here and there. However the true test of a cricket team is when they go abroad and it is only fair to say we had an abysmal record. We were favourite whipping boys when we travelled abroad.
But in November 2000 Sourav Ganguly was handed the reins of Indian cricket while it was probably at its nadir with the match fixing controversy. Under him a group of youngsters gathered, he along with Sachin, Rahul, Anil and Laxman have laid a great platform ahead. The new crop of youngsters have tasted success very early in their careers and the fearlessness that we see in the Sehwag’s, Yuvraj’s, Zaheer’s and Bhajji’s can be attributed to this early success in their careers. Sourav Ganguly injected a steel in Indian Cricket which was missing, this led to the change of attitude and a team that used to dread going abroad suddenly was raring to go abroad.
The talent apart the sudden transformation of Indian cricketers under Sourav’s leadership where they would stare the opponent in the eye and not blink and the tendency to give back as good as they got or even better then what they got has gone a long way in helping India building a fearless image in the cricket world. They psychologically even disintegrated the father (Tugga – Steve Waugh) of this theory called Psychological Disintegration
India started playing test cricket in 1932 and from then to the November of the year 2000 India had won just 13 Test matches abroad.Quite amazingly since November 2000 when Sourav became captain to today India has won 19 Test Matches Abroad including series wins in England, West Indies, New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They also were leading in Test series in South Africa and Australia but eventually squandered the lead.
Mindset has changed today when India travel’s abroad it goes with a belief that they can win. The main reason behind this has to be the amazing bench strength of fast bowlers to choose from provided they all are fit. Ishant Sharma is already the envy of all cricketing nations. Zaheer at the peak of his career and they are well supported by Ashish Nehra, R. P. Singh and Sree Santh. They have back up and even in the domestic structure there are still quite a few who can make the cut like Sudeep Tyagi, Munaf Patel & Irfan Pathan to just name a few. These fast bowlers are a big reason why India is starting to win tests and for a change we don’t have just one or two fast bowlers like a Kapil here and a Srinath there… we have 4-5 bowlers and that is the most heartening thing.
The batting line up is as awesome as it can ever get. Today arguably we possess the most explosive opening pair in Tests in Sehwag and Gautam followed by ever solid Rahul Dravid, the never ageing Sachin and the elegant Laxman. The best part is this doesn’t end here, we have Yuvraj who can be mercurial on this day and Dhoni a player who can easily be in any Test Team in the world just for his batting. The prescence of the youngsters like Rohit Sharma, Uthappa, Virat Kohli, Raina, Yusuf Pathan can only be a blessing.
The spin department is also well taken care of with Harbhajan, Amit Mishra & Pragyan Ojha. Thanks to the IPL the Indian domestic players will receive a lot of encouragement and also exposure to top flight cricket. It also means a lot more cricketers can now harbour living life simply playing domestic cricket even if they don’t get to play for India coz they can earn enough. More cricketers could only be a blessing.
In the coming two years India will have to stake their claim for the top spot, the race is tight between Australia who are undergoing transition, South Africa who are at their peak probably and India who have consistently given Australia a run for their money and beaten them on several occasions for almost a decade that too while Shane Warne and Mcgrath were playing.
Under Mahendra Singh Dhoni we have a skipper who will have to carry on the good work started by Sourav and place India on a pedestal befitting its following… the interesting times they say are just beginning… The Champions trophy will be ideal place to start this new season and a victory in all the matches should put us on top of the ODI rankings….
Quite interestingly since the 2006 Champions trophy India has won 11 out of the 17 ODI tournaments it has played and we currently have won 6 ODI series on the trot. Is Champions trophy going to be the 7th on the trot ????
Tighten your seat belt folks !!! Its gonna be a helluva interesting period for Indian fans to watch…
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