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By Sunil Gavaskar
India’s magnificent win in the two Test series confirms their status as the number one team in the world. There will always be the cynics but then, the world would not be the same without them and they add a bit of spice to what otherwise would have been a boring life.
Sure India will be recognized as a super power when they beat South Africa in the winter this year and Australia next year, for these are the two teams that have not lost to the Indians when hosting them and that is the challenge now before the Indians. Luckily, the two Test matches showed that there is plenty of talent on the bench just waiting for an opportunity to express themselves. Murali Vijay's classy century and the huge partnership with the master Sachin Tendulkar was the highlight of the second Test as was Cheteshwar Pujara’s brilliant knock in the second innings.
In the first Test, Suresh Raina showed great skill in getting close to another Test century and the spin bowling of Pragyan Ojha also promises much in the future. The youngsters have given Indian cricket much hope and with Dhoni, Harbhajan, Gambhir, and Sehwag still young and in some cases on the right side of 30s, there is a wonderful blend of youth and experience. They also have unmatched mentors in the dressing room like Tendulkar, Dravid, Harbhajan, and Zaheer and if they absorb even a little of what these great servants of Indian cricket are saying, then they will have good careers too. They have to take care of their bodies just like these stalwarts have done to ensure a fairly long career in the India colors.
Both Tests were close even if the result of the second Test may have given the impression that it was an easy win for India. In such a close contest, the umpiring can be under severe pressure with appeals being made constantly and some tempers being lost, but both Ian Gould and Billy Bowden were terrific in the decisions making and the manner in which they handled issues and nipped trouble in the bud.
Sure they made the odd error, but then which umpire has a flawless Test match or for that matter which player has a faultless game? More crucially both were prepared to accept that they could have got it wrong and were not shy of taking the help of their colleague in the TV room. In both Tests, they asked the TV umpire to check if the bowler had overstepped when the batsman was out. Both times they were right in doing so, since the bowler had indeed stepped over the line and so they had to recall the batsmen on both occasions. This is a new decision taken by the ICC this year and while it is very welcome it also shows the way forward with the referrals to the TV umpire. I have always believed that players should not be the ones asking for referrals, for it sets a bad example that they are questioning an umpire’s decision. The initiative should come from the on-field umpires themselves or their colleague in the TV room.
With walkie talkies around it is the easiest thing in the world for the TV umpire to suggest to his on field colleague that it is better to have the decision referred and seen on slow motion cameras. The on-field umpire knows whenever he may have got a decision wrong just like with the no-ball calls mentioned earlier. Similarly, he will know that the decision he has made may not be correct so it is better to go up to the TV umpire and get it right if the slow motion cameras have got it. If the cameras are inconclusive, then the on-field decision stays, but at least the umpire has made an honest effort to get it right. There are thus no maximum or minimum referrals, but anytime the umpire thinks he should go to the TV umpire he goes and not the player who is seen as challenging the umpires call and which is not a good sight in the game.
The Commonwealth Games are over and the athletes have begun their way back home some with medals and some with their hopes dashed. By all accounts, the games were very successful and were enjoyed by the great majority of those who came to participate as well as to see. Whenever a big event is given to a developing country, there are going to be the cynics who feel that the games will be a disaster but like South Africa showed with the Football World Cup a few months ago and India have shown now all those need to eat their words.
What the Indian media should now do after seeing how biased, cynical, dishonest and borderline racist some of the comments were, is to send, at future events at other venues in the world, one person and maybe a cameraman to cover the actual sporting action and another person with another cameraman just to find fault with any and everything in these countries. It is the easiest thing to do for in any big event, there will always be some shortcoming or the other and that can be made a huge issue of so, that those countries will also know how it feels to be constantly questioned about everything. All said and done, it has been an event to remember and cherish.
The haul of over 100 medals by India has certainly boosted the stock of other sports and sportspersons and they have now become well known throughout the Commonwealth. India will do well to build on the winning scene and boost the popularity of other sports through the icons created by the Commonwealth games and it is here that the administration has to begin. For them the games should just be the starting point of efforts to bring in a greater sporting culture in the country. If they rest on the laurels brought by the sportspersons then it is quickly going back to ground zero.
Lets hope for the best and in the meanwhile congrats to all those who brought glory to India in the last fortnight. You have made us all feel ten feet tall.