What a Tour!
When the series began, there was a lot of anticipation. Great battles were to be fought. Lee vs Tendulkar, Kumble vs Hayden, Harbhajan vs Ponting. Amidst all this though, one thing stayed on top of everyone’s mind: The Australians were the favourites. India would have to beat them.
As it happened, words like monkey, racism, weeds, evidence, sledging and itchy armpits made more news than the epic battles talked about at the beginning. The sheer amount of writing that must have happened on the Internet and in the newspapers would be enough fodder for an academician to write a thesis on racism in cricket with a special focus on bad journalism.
For me, it was a memorable tour for a lot of reasons.
How off-the-field events made the game in the middle all the more interesting, albeit for all the wrong reasons. How overconfidence and arrogance brought giants crumbling down to earth. How a lanky 19-year-old made the captain of a world champion side do the ‘Kathakali’. How a sanki sardar rose above his vices to conquer the imagination of an entire nation, while helping his team bring down the mighty. How an ageing master wielded the willow while critics went hammer and tongs and proved to them that they were, after all, just critics…
It’s no surprise that accusations of racism dominated the tour. The signs were eminent at the beginning of the series itself when the Australian cricket officials decided to police the racist Indian spectators. The racism game, however, was played out in the middle. Charges were made left, right and centre. None of them were proved. Mountains were made out of mole hills. And hence, Abe teri maaki became a big monkey. Match referees allofasudden decided that their whims mattered more than the legal process. Proof, or in this case, the lack of it, might as well go to hell. One man’s word became more important than another’s when it came to awarding punishments. Ageing and hapless umpires needed help from players to give decisions. Players who did not mind appealing for grounded catches, used words like ‘integrity‘ when questioned.
All that, of course, is now history. The future is much more interesting. On the one hand, a world champion side who’s ego has taken a severe beating. How they recover from this, if at all, is for time to tell. As it is, their captain looks more lost than a child in a topless bar and their future captain cuts a sorry figure of sportsmanship every time he takes the field. Their best wicketkeeper-batsman has bid adieu to the sport and the lone spinner that they had to show too has said his bye byes. The remainder of the side consists of players who are arrogant and getting old, in particular one weed-smoking gentleman.
On the other hand, there’s a young team who’s captain has taken more gambles in his few months at the helm than all his predecessors combined. And they’ve all paid off! His team is young, energetic and believes in giving back in the same coin as it gets. Collectively, they’ve proved that the mighty can be beaten at their own game. In their own backyard. They might not have won the test series, and indeed have a long way to go in order to replicate their ODI success in the test arena.
How the future plays out will be for everyone to see. For now though, it’s time to bask in the glory of sweet revenge. Bliss!