India’s overseas Test series win over Australia has really been a thought-provoking pivotal moment on cricket’s map. Even as queries were raised about whether the Test series win matters more than a World Cup, as the landscape of cricket appears to be rapidly evolving, one wonders if being alive can alone be equated with being healthy.
One of the facts stated explicitly at the outset of India’s tour of England which preceded their travelling down under was that this was India’s golden opportunity. With South Africa not as far down the road as England and particularly Australia, it was considered that while the South African sojourn was a slightly more even battle, there was never a better time for India to conquer England and Australia.
To a large extent, it was proven right. India held the aces even in England even though the result was rather adverse in hindsight. It is another matter than a befuddled Indian think tank messed up and never utilized or realized their full potential. The one thing England did right was play their cards at the right time. In the battle between underperformers, England pulled through because they backed their fringe players even as India seemed heavily consumed with the weight of expectations thrust virtually solely on the shoulders of India’s prolific premier batsman and captain, Virat Kohli.
Once too often, England found succor at the deep end and pulled wool over the Indians. Jolted by that unexpected, rather embarrassing turn of fate, it was expected that India would present a much stiffer competition for Australia who looked beaten down by their own problems besetting their topmost leadership. Without a steady team or cohesive leadership, Australia operated like a rudderless ship, unable to capitalize on the opportunities when they were thrown their way.
In the end, India’s series win down under was well deserved, although the haunting thought remained at the back of the mind like a nagging whisper. How much does this win count given that Australia have conspicuously not been at full strength? Can this series stand up to the test of time? If the adage that credit must be given where credit is due, then it stands to applaud India’s effort to make the most of their opportunities and make amends for the missed opportunities in England.
It is easy to be swayed into believing that being number one is being one’s best when perhaps India could easily raise the bar if they were presently given the opportunity to play against a tighter opponent than Australia. A corollary of a thought perked its head as the West Indies celebrated a Test win over England. Was it a shock? By common standards, yes. But the idea that a West Indies win keeps Test cricket alive is somewhat misleading from the standpoint that England’s cricket is not where it is supposed to be. After the Ashes, Joe Root and England were a doleful lot that found a hint of light in the series against India when they dodged the bullet courtesy primarily of India’s largesse of muddled team selections and decisions. Does West Indies’ win mean they raised the bar? Or does it mean England were caught with their pants down?
Australia are taking heart from winning the first Test over Sri Lanka when the latter are competing with the hosts for the wall of shame over the controversies that have plagued cricket. How much can it really count with so much in disarray and Australia seemingly groping in the dark trying to come up with the answers? While Test cricket has now absorbed Afghanistan and Ireland into its fold, apart from the inaugural jubilation, they have nothing lined up on the horizon to keep them busy, honing their skills for their next severe test. At the present time, it all seems like a bit of a mirage.