Well done India. For all the BCCI baiters and slow-on-the-coach-bandwagon red rag wavers, this was a truly independent Indian performance. It does not matter that it was 1-0 and could have been 2-0 and it does not matter either that we got out of jail at Lords. All that matters is that we won. Fair and square.
For all those that remind us that it was our first victory in England since 1986, I say this – England last won in India in 1984-85. (Actually, do look at how many teams have beaten India at home the next time they play that overseas series record rap. The last time West Indies managed it was in 1983-84 for instance. New Zealand never have. It does not change the fact that to be the best we must strive to constantly improve, but it puts a few things in perspective.)
At the start of this series, India walked in with more questions than answers. They had left out a bunch of familiar match winners. Sehwag, Irfan Pathan & Harbhajan Singh did not make the cut while promising names like Munaf Patel were sidelined by injury. In their place were a few new faces, some comeback names and a mix of superstars battling a multifaceted attack of age, criticism and doubt. The victory in Bangladesh had done nothing to heal the scars of the World Cup. And they were without a coach. The expectations though, were still sky high. They always are.
At the start of the series, Rahul Dravid said “if we don’t do well, I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, we did not have a coach’. In the end, talk is cheap. People themselves have to also realise what they have to give to the team, what their responsibilities are.”
Whats probably been the biggest success story for India in this victory has been that there has not been any single success story. Everybody, bar none, has contributed.
Dinesh Karthik who got his place at the expense of Viru Sehwag in the side, has scored a fifty in every Test he’s played and at no stage has he looked like the stage is too big for him. With Wasim Jaffer, they’re now India’s opening pair for the year and its hard to see someone challenging them for positions into the Australia tour. If someone does, it’ll be a nice embarrassment of riches to have.
Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, VVS and Dhoni all got between 205-249 runs between them (Karthik, the top scorer got 263). If it was consistency we were looking for, this was it. If everyone was supposed to play their part, this was almost like an assembly line.
India played the same XI for all the Tests. The same bowling attack went after the second ranked team in the World. These were supposedly conditions they were familiar with and we were inexperienced in. And yet, India managed 56 of the 60 English wickets on offer. (Between the RP, Zak and Sreesanth none gave outside of 338-366 runs in the series.) Also there was the lone century maker who chipped in with 14 wickets.
And then the few things that go unsung. The little bits like consistently exploiting Alistair Cook’s tendency to plonk his front foot too far across while facing the ball coming in and finding little variations of the same weakness to get him out each of the six times. Including the one time when leg slip could have got him.The ability to keep bouncing back each time it looked like the other guys had a foothold. When luck or weather lent a hand. Or the opposition stumbled. That special knack of latching on to opportunity.
There was no shortage of controversy either. Umpiring howlers, jelly beans and errant players.
And yet, holding it all together was a skipper. Struggling with form which will surely bother him for he was the lowest scorer of the series amongst the batters (and surely the knives will underline that in blood when we lose next). But this was supposed to be his big test. In response to some ridiculous criticism, he said yesterday that he knew the pulse of his team well and he backed his judgement because thats what he earns his corn for.
In my view, for the pressure of it all – Rahul Dravid was no less the Man of the Series than anyone else was.