“Cricket” – The term itself connotes a thrill for the common Indian, who bears in his heart, a sense of profound attachment towards the game. The exhilaration during a cricket tournament is ubiquitous, as the Indian recognizes himself to be a part of “Team India”, identifying himself completely with its victories and losses. So also, the deep spirit of unity is all pervasive, as the Indian, through the love for the sport, gets intricately integrated and assimilated with his fellow brothers. Such is the power of a mere sport – its sheer might and soul brings together a culturally diverse country such as ours. The Hindu doesn’t only cheer the Tendulkar, the Sikh doesn’t only endorse the Singh, and the Muslim doesn’t only take pride in the Kaif – instead, all three stand up in unison to support what we know as “TEAM INDIA”.
Being no different, the Border-Gavaskar 2008 series between Australia and India epitomized the same exuberance, generating the same kind of electrifying energy and excitement. When the series began, there was a lot of anticipation encompassing it. Great battles were to be fought – Lee vs Tendulkar, Kumble vs Hayden, Harbhajan vs Ponting. Amidst all this though, one thing stayed firm in minds – the Australians were the clear favourites and India would have to beat them.
As it so happened, in previous tours, words like ‘monkey’, ‘racism’, ‘obnoxious weed’, ‘sledging’ etc made more news than the epic battle itself. Emotions don’t hold sway when cricket is being played, rather they are fought. Lack of emotion, bordering on lack of ethics and game spirit was in question with negative tactics. The sheer amount of writing that 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. Off-the-field events made the game all the more interesting, albeit for all the wrong reasons. However, setting aside past acrminony and prior calumny, this particular tournament was a true amalgamation of unforgettable hallmarks – India’s historic 2-0 win of the trophy after four long years, Kumble and Ganguly’s era of international cricket coming to an end, overconfidence and arrogance bringing giants crumbling down to earth, the ageing masters wielding the willow, while critics were going hammer and tongs, and proving to them that they were, after all, just critics.
Thus, while the series saw “Dada” bringing his cricket career to a close on a positive note, it also witnessed Kumble retiring after accomplishing a triumphant feat – over 2500 runs and 600 wickets – for any tail ender. The stalwarts of Indian cricket are seen departing today, with the legacy being carried forward by a young team whose skipper has taken more gambles in his few months at the helm than all his predecessors combined. And they’ve all paid off! Dhoni’s team embodies great energy, strong conviction, and last but certainly not the least, the YOUTH. As a stark contrast to its previous humble masters, the present torch bearers believe in giving back in the same coin as they get. At the same time, Dhoni allowing Kumble to lift the gleaming cup simply bears testimony to the fact that he truly respects his seniors, not only because of the laurels they brought back home, but also because of the significant contribution made by them towards Indian cricket.
In the face of a period when the global media has touted the Australians as invincible, the Indians emerging triumphant has definitely shattered their long reign. As it basks in the glory of sweet revenge, through this victory, “TEAM INDIA” proves that the ‘bat and ball’ is any given day, mightier than the sword.
With a pint of Fosters in the hand, wearing the most smug expression, they might still continue, “Aussie-Aussie-Aussie hoye hoye hoye”, but nevertheless, smarting under this crushing defeat, Sir Ponting and his team will never forget the lanky 20 year old ‘Man of the Series’ who shook the very foundation of Australian test cricket.