Cricket is a funny game isn’t it?
It was only 14 months ago, at the start of the Australian summer of 2011/12, that the average Indian cricket fan was full optimism despite the embarrassing 4-0 loss to England only months earlier. After a close tour in 2003/04 and then blatantly being robbed of a maiden Test series victory in Australia in 2007/08 at the hands of below par umpiring, many of us felt that it was finally about to happen, India was finally going to win a Test series in Australia. We were finally going to see our cricketing legends Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Zaheer and Dhoni with the help of the young brigade in Kohli, Yadav and Ashwin beat the Aussies – I mean, even the Kiwis had just beaten them!
Optimism soon turned to heartbreak, despair and anger. Historically poor starters in Australia, we brushed aside the loss in Melbourne as one of those things that just happens, not to worry, three more Tests to go and Sachin, Sehwag and Dravid had already scored half centuries – they can only get better from here. Wrong. As the Test series went on the Sydney, Perth and finally Adelaide, the defeats just got more and more embarrassing. India had seemed to do the impossible, the got the very out of form Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey back into form and prolonged their careers for two more seasons. They started off Michael Clarke’s unbelievable purple patch – allowing him to score a triple century and a double century in the same series, at the same time our batting superstars had back to back to back collective failures.
For us Indian fans, especially those of us in the Swami Army who booked in leave, traveled around this great land, only to see our team fail and fail again – it was just excruciating. We saw our team dismantling in front of our eyes. A highly publicised rift among the leadership group (sound familiar Pup and Watto?), and the Indian players lashing out at the Aussie public and press did not help things.
Fast forward to five weeks ago. Australia arrive in India full of confidence after subduing the number one ranked Proteas in two out of three Tests and comprehensively beating Sri Lanka 3-0. Australia also took confidence from the fact that the hosts had lost their most recent home series 2-1 to the English. These facts were not lost on the educated Indian fan. Some, like myself, were pessimistic about the series result despite the fact that historically Australia are as poor a traveler to India as India are to Australia.
Unlike previous India v Australia encounters, there was little to know talk to build up the series. Perhaps because the fiery combatants in Ricky Ponting and Gautam Gambhir were no longer present, perhaps because both teams are so accustomed to each other due to tournaments such as the IPL. There was no talk of “revenge” or “redemption” from the Indian camp, probably because that backfired when England toured a few months prior. However, at the end of the fourth Test when MS Dhoni hit the winning runs at the Kotla to wrap up the series 4-0, there was a huge sense of satisfaction that India had redeemed themselves, from a fans perspective anyway.
While there was a sense of hurt when a similar series outcome was not achieved against England, somehow it meant a lot more that the 4-0 result came against Australia. Maybe I feel this way because being brought up in Australia and outside of religion and family, cricket is the only thing that ties me to India; or it may be because as Indian fans we have felt wronged by the mighty Australians in classic encounters so many times in the past (ie 2003 World Cup, Test series in 2004, 2007/08). Either way, a sense of closure and redemption was achieved with this whitewash, and I for one hope that this is a positive turning point for our Men in Blue. Bring on the Proteas!