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Boria Majumdar - Let us have a fifth test
by Boria Majumdar
Jan 28, 2008
By Boria Majumdar - Dreamcricket Special Columnist

Not always do you feel really angry about cricket’s excessive commercialization. More so, if you see the merits of monetization and accept that it is imperative for a sport’s survival. The intensity of the Test series down under has thrown up one such exceptional moment. Frankly, at the end of four Tests, we don’t have a winner. Australia may have won the series 2-1, but the Indians have emerged out of it reasonably unscathed, perhaps moral victors, and surely a team who can push the Australians to the brink. And this is where a fifth Test becomes a necessity. Knowing full well that the KFC 20-20 will generate immense excitement, that the MCG will be packed on 1 February and the audience will have an immense day out, I still wish it would not be played. Rather, I wish that the two teams would play a fifth Test match in Brisbane, allowing a platform for the two best sides of the world to engage in one final round of combat.

To be honest, it was always going to be Australia’s series. More so after Zaheer Khan was forced to return home before the new-year Test in Sydney. The question that had been doing the rounds in India and across the cricket world was whether India had the ammunition to pick up 20 Australian wickets. This question was answered on Boxing Day itself at the MCG when the Indians had the Australians on the mat at 337-9 after they had been 135-0 at one stage. This was the first signal of deviation from established practice. It was an indication that the tour could well unfold in a manner that hadn’t been scripted. An insipid Indian batting performance silenced such possibilities and there was renewed concern if India’s batting, still heavily reliant on veterans, was good enough to stand up to a peaking Brett Lee, a fast maturing Stuart Clarke and an impressive Mitchell Johnson.

2008 brought the answer in its wake. A special effort from the special Laxman and a batting masterclass from Sachin Tendulkar and India had overhauled a 450 plus Australian first innings total in Sydney. This was after Australia was escorted to 450 by a Steve Bucknor nightmare when the entire world but the umpire had heard Symonds edge Ishant Sharma to Mahendra Dhoni. The resilience shown by the Indian tail with Tendulkar in tow was the second signal that the tour was not to be a repeat of 1999, when the Indians had been thrashed 3-0. Even in defeat the Indians were victorious in Sydney. They, as their captain emphasized, had played the game in true spirit unlike the Australians and the umpires.

Had it been a run of the mill series, a routine practice from the last decade, the Australians would just steamroll an opposition that had cast aspersions on their ability to play the game in true spirit. This appeared more than likely at Perth, the hallowed fortress of Australian cricket over the years, which was expected to have the pace and the bounce to rattle the Indians. The Australians, getting it completely wrong, played four fast bowlers and in the process weakened their batting. The Indians, by contrast, won the Test with what is a fast disappearing art, lethal swing bowling, conventional and reverse. It is a cliché to suggest that no batsman is at ease against the swinging ball and it was once again on view in Perth.

We now understand better how England had won the 2005 Ashes. A rookie Ishant Sharma, the find of the series, made a complete mockery of Ricky Ponting and demonstrated that Ponting, despite all his exploits, can never be a Tendulkar. And with no five for or no hundred to show for the Indians at the WACA, the Perth victory rightfully deserves its place in the hallowed echelons of Indian cricket as perhaps the best example of teamwork by an Indian cricket team overseas. Yet another difference that helped spice up the series. Indian cricket, till recently was all about individual performances. Perth silenced this criticism for all times to come.

And finally Adelaide. Even at the post match media conference in Perth, the huge Indian media contingent was abuzz about how the Australians will come really hard at us in Adelaide. India’s record after winning an important Test match over the last couple of seasons added to the apprehension. But as I said, this series was different. It was one where India, after winning a Test match, came out firing and scored 500 plus giving itself every chance of winning the second Test match on the trot. Had R P Singh’s hamstring not done him and had Anil Kumble’s shoulder not acted up at a crunch time, we might have had a fairytale ending. However, as things turned out, India needed to stay intact. It did. Virender Sehwag scored his first ever second innings hundred and Australia did not come anywhere close to doing what they had done to England in 2006-7 at the same venue.

The series, however, ended on a sour note. It had to given all the controversy and ill feeling it had generated. It was a shame to see Cricket Australia not call upon Sunil Gavaskar who was in the commentary box to hand over the trophy (or to even stand through the presentation) when the trophy itself is named after him, a fact pointed out by his colleague Ravi Shastri soon after the presentation was over. May be Gavaskar will be called upon down the line when the Indians dethrone the Australians. That will make the script perfect. Till then let us savor the difference and also the fact that officially India is the number two Test side in the world.

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