India rising - The young guns of Indian cricket
Indian cricket – Turbulent times
After the debacles in Australia (4-0) and England (4-0) , the Indian team was under fire from every corner, be it the media or the ever-so-passionate Indian cricket fan, for never ever in recent memory had Indian cricket been subjected to such a long losing streak.
Indian players, in many press conferences, vowed to avenge both the losses by promising to triumph on the rank turners that were to be meted out. Unexpectedly, the plan backfired, as England showed India that “actions are louder than empty words”. They showed the Indians how to spin the ball with exceptional bowling performances by the spin twins, Swann and Panesar. Also, their batsmen, after failing in the first Test, learnt and developed the method to tackle the Indian spinners who were running out of ideas to get their batsmen out. The result? A 2-1 series loss for India, this time at home.
One thought that maybe this was the end and India would come back hard in the Pakistan series at home, as Indians are always expected to be charged up to perform against their arch rivals. But again, India lost the ODI series 2-1, further adding to the list of humiliating defeats.
Border-Gavaskar Trophy – Mindset changes
One wondered what was happening and what more was to come that could cause more agony to the Indian cricketers and the fans alike. The misery just did not seem to end. Such performances even forced Star Cricket and Star Sports to pull the ad campaigns for the England series (Angrezon ka Band) and Pakistan series (Aane do) off air.
Finally came the Australian series at home, and this time, the Star network did not jump the gun and settled for a humbler phrase – “Asli Test Baki Hai”.
The series came after a reasonably long break following the ODI series against England. India was always the favourite but keeping in mind the recent turn of events, especially the home series loss against England, the cricket pundits were wary of predicting anything regarding India’s performance, even against this inexperienced Australian side.
Before the start of the series, the spotlight was on the team selection, with questions like “Who would be the openers?”, “Who will bat at no.6″, “Will Dhoni still captain the Test squad?” and”What will be the pace attack?”, still remaining unanswered.
The date was set, and the selectors announced the squad at the end of the Irani Cup game (played between the Ranji champions and the best of the rest of India). Soon enough, the selections became an object of active debate, be it on the news channels or other various public platforms. The selectors’ intentions were pretty clear -they were no longer going to allow the Indian cricket team to decay. This was evident by the fact that they disposed off Gautam Gambhir and instead took on Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay who averaged just 17 throughout the Ranji season. They probably wanted to give Sehwag another go, as he’s known to take the game away from the opposition in the blink of an eye.
Winds of change in Indian cricket
1st Test CHENNAI
The first Test saw Murali Vijay make a comeback, opening the batting with Sehwag, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar make his debut.
Sehwag, to no one’s surprise, continuing his poor form, got out cheaply. When one is going through a rough patch, luck is pretty hard to come by and that is exactly what happened. After hitting the ball, the ball hit the ground, bounced high (could’ve gone anywhere) hit the the stumps and dislodged the bails. Soon Murali Vijay followed him, clean bowled off a full length stinging delivery from Pattinson.
One thought that India was again going down the same path, but in came Captain cool, Dhoni, and his worthy deputy, Virat Kohli, hitting a quickfire double ton and a ton respectively to save the sinking Indian ship. This set the tone for the match and probably for the entire series.
In the bowling department, Ashwin came into his own after a forgettable series against England, as he tormented the Australian batsmen, taking 12 wickets in the match. These performances ensured that India led the series 1-0. But this was just the beginning.
Stars – MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin.
2nd Test HYDERABAD
Come the second Test and the cricket pundits were expecting Ashwin to again run through the Australian batting order, but a young, shy lad from U.P – Bhuvneshwar Kumar – surprised everyone by taking 3 quick and important wickets (Ed Cowan, David Warner and Shane Watson). This was an exceptional thing, even more so because of the fact that no one expected Australia to fall against medium-pace and that too on a wicket that knew no green or any other shade resembling that.
This set up the platform for Ashwin to take 5 wickets again in the innings, while Jadeja bottled up one end. Jadeja took wickets mostly because of his relentless accuracy, taking the important scalp of Michael Clarke in each innings.
With the bowling department being headed by youngsters, the batting department was also spearheaded by youngsters, with Vijay coming good and making 150-odd and Pujara making a double ton, helping India to set up a mammoth total of more than 500.
The match finished within 4 days, with Aussies losing the match by an innings and 135 runs, making this loss the first time any team lost after declaring in the first innings.
Stars – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay
3rd Test MOHALI
The third Test saw significant changes being made to both the sides. India let go of Sehwag after giving him enough opportunities while Aussies suspended 4 players on disciplinary grounds.
Australia, for the first time in the entire series, passed the 400 mark, but they did not expect what came next. With the first day being washed out, everybody made peace with a draw, but Shikhar Dhawan, the debutant, had other ideas, making the fastest 100 on debut (100 off 85 balls) and allowing India to get closer to the Australian total.
The bowling attack saw Bhuvneshwar Kumar taking three quick wickets on the 4th day, setting up the match nicely for a result in India’s favour the next day. Mohali did not prove to be a wicket-taking haven for Ashwin but it did for Ishant and Jadeja as they finished off Australia quickly in the second innings. Dhoni and Jadeja finished off the formalities with two overs to spare.
Stars - Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Murali Vijay
4th Test DELHI
The Delhi Test match was marked by changes again in both the squads. Shikhar Dhawan was forced to sit out due to an injury and Suresh Raina was brought in as his replacement. Australia, on the other hand, brought in Mitchell Johnson and Glenn Maxwell, while Shane Watson came back again into the team, but this time as captain due to Michael Clarke’s degenerative back problem.
Dhoni again lost the toss, India again had to bowl first and Australia again fell cheaply in the first innings; thus continuing the trend followed throughout the series with Ashwin, Jadeja and even Ishant being the shining stars in the bowling department.
When India batted, all the batsmen, barring Pujara, and Vijay fell pretty early. India thus managed to take a lead of only 10 runs on a pitch that was the most treacherous of all the pitches presented in the series.
On the third day, Australia, after a great second day,were unable to answer the questions asked by the Indian spin trio of Jadeja, Ashwin and Ojha, with “Sir” Ravindra Jadeja – as he is popularly known nowadays – taking his first 5-fifer. Australia thus managed to take a meagre lead of 155, which was still a threat for India on the Kotla pitch.
India approached the second innings all guns blazing. Pujara came out to bat with a swollen hand but, along with Dhoni, ensured that they finished off the match with two days to spare, ending the series with a 4-0 whitewash.
Stars - Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin.
Young guns blazing
Every match saw youngsters making the most important and match-winning contributions. This series, therefore, saw a significantly transformed Indian side with the youngsters showing that they are on their way to becoming worthy successors of legends like Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, although one knows that their voids can never be filled.
Nobody knows what will happen in the overseas series’ but for the moment let’s enjoy and appreciate the rise of the young guns of Indian cricket.