Ever since the Indian cricket establishment woke up to the fact that neither Sachin Tendulkar nor his friends in the league of the Fabulous Four were Peter Pans in disguise, there has been much chatter and promise about ensuring a smooth transition to the next generation.
We know how that effort has panned out… till now.
The claim of building for the future had started sounding increasingly dubious as the approach over the last few years reeked of indecision and knee-jerk reactions. But, for the first time in a while, I can smell change.
It is too premature and ridiculous to herald the dawn of a bright new era but, slowly emerging in the last few weeks, there has been the promise of a fresh beginning in Indian cricket.
The strongest indicator of this is that, either by sheer chance or keen desire, the legacy issues of a team-gone-by appear to be sorted out as India salvaged some pride against a competitor that had given it so much grief just a year ago.
One of the factors contributing to the hit-and-miss approach in team composition was possibly that even though India spoke about looking ahead, they still kept a foot planted firmly in the past. As opposed to considering potential replacements for the senior cricketers, the process continued to work around them.
The administration’s hand was forced after the retirement of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the persistent failures of Virender Sehwag and the impending exit of Sachin Tendulkar. The usual suspects in this situation – Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina – were at best accessories but had not proven themselves to be the real deal. Thankfully, the much-maligned domestic circuit and even more rubbished Indian Premier League have combined to provide a conduit into the talent and, more importantly, attitude required for the national team.
Newcomers with as much spunk as spark have lifted a jaded group from the dumps.
Whether it is in the energy that Ravindra Jadeja brings to the bowling, the maturity that Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara display at the top of the order, or the fearlessness that Shikhar Dhawan shows in his freshly-minted India cap, the future is here.
As much as one tried to find fault and stay cynical, this team has brought back some reason to hope, a situation many, including me, found difficult to imagine at the start of the series. Not only did they secure the Border-Gavaskar trophy, they reignited belief in the hardening hearts of millions. Simply put, it was once more fun to watch India play.
The challenge is to carry the promise forward against South Africa in December. Because this series cannot be considered an isolated triumph for Indian cricket. We have had enough of those and they never augur well. It must be placed at the beginning of a potentially stronger, more consistent future where the goal isn’t merely to score random wins only to slump back into an ignominious trough.
A 3-0 series win, with one Test still to go, against an inexperienced Australian side, at home is exactly what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. It cannot be confused with achieving the same feat in Australia or maintaining the winning streak over a long period. Now, that would be incredible, worth fireworks, processions and the rest of the shebang.
But it is still a solid win, and comes after months of struggle. More importantly, it finally holds the promise for more. If we must, then let us quietly celebrate that.
The author writes on popular culture, cricket and whatever else takes her fancy