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Silver linings of the Border-Gavaskar trophy

Indian cricket fans rejoiced as the Men in Blue completed a relatively easy 4-0 victory over the Aussies in the Border-Gavaskar trophy. The series kept many a cricket fan entertained through its twists and turns, ups and downs and unpredictable turn of events. Despite Jadeja’s rude hand-gesture, the ‘sledging’ between the overs and the ‘homework-gate’ scandal, the series had a variety of positives for the domineering Indians as well as the relatively tame Aussies. Here’s a look at the silver linings of the Border-Gavaskar trophy:

Ravichandran Ashwin – India’s next great spinner

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After the retirement of Anil Kumble and the collapse of Harbhajan Singh, the future of Indian spin bowling looked bleak. But out of the shadows came Ravichandran Ashwin. He was adjudged the Man of the Series for taking an unprecedented 29 wickets in the four matches and will be the flag-bearer for Indian spin bowling in the years to come.

“Everything has gone pretty well. There were a few changes I had to make after the England series. Very happy at how it has come out. I had to work on my delivery stride, I had to work on it. We had very little time and I was lucky to have a coach who identified it pretty quickly. I definitely needed a kick on the backside and they gave me one. Hopefully, I can build on this”  - Ravichandran Ashwin, on receiving the Man of the Series award.
Michael Clarke – The one man army

Australia v Sri Lanka - Third Test: Day 2

As captain of one of the most inexperienced Australian teams to have ever set foot on sub-continental shores, Michael Clarke was left fighting a losing battle with virtually no support. Unfazed, the charismatic Aussie took it in his stride and played some lovely innings’ under pressure. A sturdy 130 in the first innings in Chennai was followed by a gutsy 91 in the first innings in Hyderabad. His captaincy in the second innings of the third Test was phenomenal as he led from the front in an attempted comeback. Impeccable field placing and judicious use of his available resources in the second innings of the third Test meant that India had to fight for what should have been an easy victory. An unfortunate back injury meant that Clarke had to cut his visit short and return home.

The rise of ‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja

Mocked by the masses, Jadeja silenced all his critics with an outstanding performance with the ball and a gutsy performance with the bat. Amassing an impressive 24 wickets in the four matches, Jadeja played his part well in the bowling department. Those two boundaries in the stagnating second innings of the third Test gave MS Dhoni the confidence to hit the winnings runs, thereby putting the series beyond Australia’s reach. A deadly partnership with Ashwin was one of the highlights of the series as the Dynamic Duo will look to build on a healthy start. Jadeja earned a well deserved Man of the Match award in the fourth and final Test. This should sum up his series:

“Every ball Jadeja bowls is like a hand-grenade.” Shane Warne, on Jadeja.

“I did well in this game. The wicket helped the spinners so I was bowling well. Just wanted to get as many as possible. Unfortunately I didn’t score much runs with the bat, but I bowled well in the series. I’m used to playing on such wickets in Rajkot. I was bowling in the right areas and the rest the wicket was doing.” - - Ravindra Jadeja, on receiving the Man of the Match award. 
Peter Siddle – The all-rounder

Australia v Sri Lanka - Third Test: Day 3

An integral part of the Australian bowling attack, Siddle came to life in the second innings of the third Test. He, along with Mitchell Starc, pushed India until the very end of the fifth day. As the Australian batting lineup collapsed for the second innings running, Siddle stepped up at the number 9 position and gave it his all in an effort to win the fourth Test, thereby creating a record by becoming the first player in the history of cricket to top score in both innings of a Test match, batting at number 9.

Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay – The start of something new?

Indian batsman Murali Vijay plays a shot

Murali Vijay, having replaced an under-performing Virender Sehwag, announced himself to the Hyderabad crowd in style as he scored a mature 167 off 361 balls in the second Test match and played the supporting role to an on-fire Cheteshwar Pujara, who top scored with 204. Similarly, in the first innings of the fourth Test, Murali Vijay scored a respectable 153 off 317 balls, but was over-shadowed again, this time by a ruthless Shikhar Dhawan who tormented the Aussie bowlers to end up with 187 off 174 balls. The duo played with a controlled aggression that is rarely seen in the modern game and snatched the match away from the Aussies effortlessly. It was the single most selfless performance I have ever witnessed in modern day cricket. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag will have to work extremely hard in the domestic arena if they are to unseat these two charismatic individuals and regain their places as the openers for team India.

“It was a dream come true moment for me. I was nervous for the first three-four balls but I played my natural game once I found my rhythm.”  - Shikhar Dhawan, after his blistering knock.
Pujara and Kohli – The future of Indian cricket

India v New Zealand: 1st Test - Day One

Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli performed admirably in the batting department throughout the series and ensured that the future of Indian cricket is in safe hands. Pujara, who is often compared to Rahul Dravid, showed maturity well beyond his years as he brought India home on a tough Feroz Shah Kotla pitch in the fourth Test. The young batsmen was well supported by Virat Kohli whose incredible run of form continued throughout the series. Pujara’s 204 off 341 balls in the second Test placed India in a commanding position in the match as well as the series. Kohli’s century in the first innings of the first Test is also worth a mention as it set the stage for India to dominate the folks from Down Under.

“It is always proud to play for the country. I always enjoy scoring hundreds whether I am playing for the country or club team. When you play for the country and score hundred it is a different kind of satisfaction.” - Cheteshwar Pujara, after his classy double hundred.
MS Dhoni – Captain Cool

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As India made a clean sweep of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, MS Dhoni became the first Test captain to win a series 4-0 despite losing all the tosses in a series. India’s calm and composed leader also became the most successful Indian skipper after the win in the second Test and his knock of 224 off 265 balls epitomized his ability to adapt to different situations. Dhoni led India to victory in the third and the fourth Tests with gutsy boundaries, after doing a brilliant job behind the stumps.

“It is a big boost to win 4-0 with this unit. Credit goes to every one. The last one and a half years has not been great for us in Tests, but they showed a lot of character, put in good performance and battled it out.” - MS Dhoni, during the post-match presentation ceremony.
The commentary box

At times during the series, it was evident that the commentary box was more star-studded than the field. Allan Border, Sunil Gavaskar, VVS Laxman, Shane Warne, Ravi Shastri and Matthew Hayden comprised the commentary team. The inclusion of Alan Wilkins was the icing on top of the cake. Border and Gavaskar took us on a trip down memory lane to their playing days and recalled the time when the former swore at the latter in – wait for it – Hindi! Surprise surprise! Laxman and Hayden provided us with interesting insights into the mind games that went on behind the scenes in the dressing room and off the pitch. Alan Wilkins, of course, effortlessly described the course of events in that soothing voice of his. All in all, a lovely experience for cricket fans, both on and off the pitch.

The fans

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Before the series, the BCCI must have been getting worried about dwindling ticket sales and fan appearances. The Border-Gavaskar trophy put all these issues to rest as the spirit of cricket, unity and brotherhood spread across the country and encouraged fans to cheer their team on. A small example is that of ‘Little Paaji’ (Ravi Shastri, thank you for that nickname), a 10-year-old cricket lover who attended all five days of the Mohali Test and kept everyone entertained with his blissful antics.

 “My voice has choked due to screaming but I love every moment of it. Whenever a game is played at the PCA Stadium, me and my brother make it a point to come and support the Indian team. “I would have loved it if Yuvi paaji were in the team. My energy would have doubled.” - 10-year-old Shabad, after the Mohali Test.

The results

First Test: India won by 8 wickets.

Second Test: India won by an innings and 135 runs.

Third Test: India won by 6 wickets (in 4 days).

Fourth Test: India won by 6 wickets (in 3 days).

In conclusion, a young and charismatic Indian side thrashed a relatively  inexperienced and controversy-hit Australian side 4-0 in the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Team India’s real test will be the Test series against South Africa away from home. Can India maintain the momentum and beat the mighty South Africans in their own backyard? Only time will tell.

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