Where did it all go right for India? How did Mahendra Singh Dhoni rediscover his Midas touch? However it came about — home- biased tracks, a selection policy simultaneously progressive and hidebound, a skewed balance of power righting itself, the many problems, cricketing and otherwise, of the opposition — a 4-0 drubbing of Australia is both stunning and unexpected. It is time for celebration. And for acknowledging that the transition is going well, thank you.
As Oscar Wilde might have said, to win one or two Tests might be an accident, but to win four in a row requires talent. Until a generation ago, India were seen as tigers at home but lambs abroad. But after losing a home series to England for the first time in 28 years, there was a suggestion they were lambs at home too. The Australia series has restored the tigerishness domestically, and that’s a step forward after the two steps back in the past 18 months.
Look at this Indian team. A new opening pair. A middle order where the man upsetting the balance, ironically, is Sachin Tendulkar. A new spin combination. A new set of opening bowlers. Wasn’t it just yesterday that India opened with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, had Rahul Dravid at three, followed by Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and so on, with the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan making up the bowling attack?
Now only Tendulkar remains. And he has been given another chance to quit while on top, as he was after the World Cup win in 2011.
India’s transition from No. 1 back to No. 1 is nowhere near complete — they will have to win abroad with some consistency for that — but the gentle, almost silent revolution that has been unfolding before our eyes has been fascinating.
Just over a year ago, as India were being handed their eighth consecutive defeat abroad in Adelaide, there was acknowledgement that this was the beginning of the end. The Golden Era had definitely wound down. Now after 4-0, it is the beginning of another beginning. Players who were not born when Tendulkar made his Test debut are now sharing the dressing room with him and playing significant roles in India’s rehabilitation. Only four who played in that Adelaide Test survive, and the cricket board’s inactivity in the face of that carnage is suddenly beginning to look like master strategy. As is Dhoni’s refusal to get drawn into panic.
Shikhar Dhawan has emerged as the most exciting debutant since Virender Sehwag, and even if he doesn’t touch the heights he reached in Mohali, he has assured himself of a decent run in the team. More, he might have raised the hopes of others on the fringes of the team. When one decision pays off so handsomely, selectors tend to gain confidence and are more willing to listen to youngsters knocking at the door.
By dismissing the world’s best batsman, Michael Clarke, five times in the series, Ravindra Jadeja has had the last laugh after being the butt of many jokes for his alleged left-arm spin. His haul of 24 wickets in the series is second only to Ravi Ashwin’s 29. Not since Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Bishan Singh Bedi claimed 60 wickets between them against England four decades ago have two spinners harried the opposition like this. And India won that earlier series only by a narrow margin (2-1).