Kotla Ke Bande
While Shahid Afridi confirms suspicions of just another pro-Pakistani impulsive condition, Sri-Lanka continue their impressively consistent post World Cup pro-Indian dip, and West Indies return to their insanely victorious defeats- Team India have entered a time machine and zoomed back to the mid-90s. A nightmare for most current fans accustomed to regular overseas glory, but a blessing for a minutely optimistic loyal Indian cricket fan.
2-0 up in the series with 3 games to go. Sadly, even a 4-1 could seem a bit hollow after what transpired in England, and it would only confirm a status we so often like shedding. A 5-0 is beyond hope, logic and reason- but it JUST may restore some of the lost pride, along with acquiring the long-forgotten tag of ‘Tigers at Home’. Sri Lanka would know. What may never heal the 2-month long steady distortion of half-truths and quarter-lies, is the fact that the Indian cricket team look more than happy to be back in the very conditions that won them the World Cup. That could only mean, that if not for home and sub-continental advantage, India would never consider being called a Champion team. The glory days, face it, lasted for all of two years. Ask yourselves the venue of a World Cup tournament ever made a difference to the marauding Australian team- also known as the ‘greatest team to have ever played cricket’. Nevertheless, what India achieved is no mean feat, and the complete embarrassment of their current situation and their ‘harder they fall’ act has only amplified the glory they had worked so long to gain.
Only a matter of time
The Second ODI at Delhi was a pleasant rewind back to April- where, once the opposition bowlers dismissed our openers in routine fashion, our middle order would refuse to crumble under all sorts of non-existent pressure. Kohli, inspite of being called one of the most consistent Indian batsmen over the previous year, proved that he is an impact player and a run-machine…only when he crosses the score of 25. If you notice his graph, a vast majority of his failures lie between 0-8 runs per innings- and his successes between 70-120. There is nothing, as expected, in between. For some odd reason, I’ll take that. He is only 22, of course, and has a long distinguished one-day career ahead of him. His lack of technique and blatant front-foot flaws do not stop him from harvesting the rich Indian soil on our pitches, and he continues to terminate Rohit Sharma’s stop-and-start ‘could have been’ career. His century in this second ODI came at an opportunistic time, with both the Delhi boys proving to be flat-pitch bullies and par-score-experts. We’re not complaining. We’d rather chase down the score of 235 with relative ease than fall short of a pathetically inept score of 300.
What stood out the most, apart from the minor miracle of Vinay Kumar actually resembling the class of an international ex-bowler called Azhar Mahmood (complete with his first 4-wicket haul), was the imperious and inevitable return to form of Gautam Gambhir. After a ‘warmup’ sort of Champion’s league campaign for KKR, he’d have been nothing short of lynched, raped or murdered if he had pulled out of this series using the ‘vision’ excuse. His return to form means a lot to an undercooked and less-experienced young ODI squad, and it also means that he should consider opening the batting after repeated failures of the once-impressive (Amay Khurasia-style, remember?) Rahane.
I still maintain, though, that it was a minor bowling failure on India’s part, after having England on the ropes at 0-2. To let them get to 235 is a crime, and the ruthlessness that accompanies the revered presence of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra might never return.
As of now, the home boys bailed us out of jail with a typically, gritty and unattractive 200-run partnership at a ground where they were probably sown out of seeds on a rainy monsoon morning.
Royal or not, you’re still a Challenger, kid!
Next up- the news of yet another Indian back-bencher making it back to the T20 squad. Robin Uthappa, the player with the attitude of Richards and the temperament of Safin, is back after three long, painful years in the dark. He probably deserves a chance, given his prodigious talent in the shorter versions of the game, and his Challenger Trophy performances that resulted in a few rare back-to-back big ones, was what did the trick.
Onto Mohali, where Piyush Chawla, inspite of not being in the squad, might just get a look-in considering Dhoni’s return to winning ways (and hence, return to stubborn selections). Doubt it, though with Ravindra Jadeja more than making up in that ‘quota’ department. Expect a century from him after the series is won, in the fifth ODI, when is on the verge of being dropped again.
3-2, 4-1 or 5-0? Or, sorry to be brutally pessimistic, 2-3?