That's another Ravi Shastri six!
Kohli & Co's achievement in Australia is worthy of creamy praise but cannot be at par or rated higher than the 1983 World Cup win
Ravi Shastri loves playing to the gallery and lifts his team to such great heights, in terms of estimation, that soon either an airline or elevator manufacturer will want to sign him on. The Indian cricket team's head coach was at it again on Monday when he said in a media conference that the 2018-19 Border-Gavaskar Trophy series win in Australia was bigger than the 1983 World Cup and 1985 World Championship of Cricket triumphs.
Giving the latest victory a first mention in India's book of cricketing glory is not going to attract universal agreement. However, it must be stressed that Shastri was under-playing one of the 1980s achievements which he played a huge role in. Not many ex-stalwarts do that.
Comments like best touring team in 15 years and the Australian conquest being superior to the World Cup and World Championship of Cricket will inevitably give his critics more ammunition to fire, and views that Shastri isn't making sense are even coming from some of his former teammates. That won't stop the Mumbai man from shooting from the lip, though.
Nothing can take away the fact that he has guided India to a heavyweight achievement. His team's pace bowling attack is now considered the best in the world. How big a statement is that for a country not famous for its fast bowling produce! India also became the first Asian team to beat Australia at home in a Test series. If one peeps into the history of Asian teams in Australia, the one side that provided the biggest challenge to Australia before India, were Pakistan.
Even with Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, they couldn't win a series there. India have gone past their neighbours in terms of number of Test wins in Australia — seven, as against Pakistan's four. And if you are a Pakistan cricket fan, don't look up the last 12 Tests they have figured in Down Under because you will see a dozen defeats.
As much as I cringe at some of Shastri's utterances and how he probably comes to press conferences with the sole intention of wielding his sword at journalists (he sarcastically thanked them in Sydney), I am delighted that India have the pace firepower to conquer every opposition in sight. It's important to remember that India have suffered two whitewashes in the last 20 years in Australia — 1999-2000 and 2011-12.
The bitter pill of the 1-4 loss in England last year was well-swallowed and forgotten and India took fresh guard in the best possible manner. The fast, fiery and furious pacers outdid their Australian counterparts and the anticipated chin music from their home studios couldn't be delivered efficiently through the air waves.
The slow bowlers shouldn't miss out on kudos, especially Kuldeep Yadav, who came in for the final Test which Ravichandran Ashwin missed through injury. Kuldeep did well to put behind his unrewarding previous Test (0-44 at Lord's in 2018) and flummoxed the Australians at a venue that has been kind to his tribe.
Hopefully, the pacers' contribution will not outweigh the brilliance of Cheteshwar Pujara. There has been a lot of talk about this Test team's win being the finest, but the 2-0 triumph over England in 1986 was stupendous too and the architect of that win was Dilip Vengsarkar, who scored two centuries in a low-scoring series. Pujara's impact on the last series reminded me of Vengsarkar's heroics at Lord's and Leeds.
India did what was expected of them — beat an Australian team without the likes of Steven Smith and David Warner. And, had it not been for the wet weather in Sydney, the series could well have ended with a 3-1 result for the visitors. Not only was this India's maiden Test series win in Australia, it was also for the first time in 71 years that an Indian bowling attack and fielding side didn't allow an Australian batsman to score a century at home. This is a manifestation of India's quality as well as the state of Australia's first-class cricket. The Sheffield Shield was considered the most competitive of all domestic competitions, so why is it not producing quality batsmen?
The stakeholders of Australian cricket will do well to recall what late batsman David Hookes, who played Sheffield Shield cricket under a South Australia cap with the same gusto as Test cricket wrote in a Geoff Armstrong-authored book commemorating 100 years of the domestic competition: "A fine legacy has been left by a century of cricketers. It is now up to the contemporary generation to ensure the greatest game prospers and gives youngsters the chance to follow their dreams and stride onto the first-class arenas with dignity and pride."
Back to Indian cricket. Greater things are in store for this highly-credentialed team. Their achievement in Australia is worthy of creamy praise. But it still cannot be on par, or rated higher than the 1983 World Cup win until we learn about boys and girls watching this win and then being moved to take up the game. There is a fundamental difference between applauding an achievement and being inspired by it. We'll ask that much more from Kohli & Co.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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