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More glorious than a victorious tour
by Partab Ramchand
Jan 31, 2008
By Partab Ramchand – Dreamcricket Special Columnist

The fact that India have jumped from No 4 to No 2 in the ICC Test rankings at the end of the series against Australia says it all. The scoreline of 2-1 in Australia’s favour is secondary. I know of many cricket fans who will say that 1-1 would have been a more just result. Perhaps but one must always look at the larger picture. To me it does not really matter that Anil Kumble could not join Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Sourav Ganguly as the Indian captains who have squared a Test series in Australia. What matters is that the tourists really pushed the No 1 ranked team in the world for a long time now really hard so much so that Ricky Ponting readily acknowledged that the Indians were the second best team in the world.

When the Indians landed in Australia few would have given them any chance of squaring the series. The home team might have lost the services of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Damien Martyn and Justin Langer following last year’s Ashes clean sweep but they certainly seemed to have discovered adequate replacements. Moreover however strong the Indian batting has traditionally been for some time now there were always going to be doubts over the bowling. Kumble’s statement on the eve of the series that ``we have the bowling to take 20 wickets’’ was taken with more than a pinch of salt. And yet while the batting lived up to its exalted stature it was the supposedly the weaker link – the bowling – that in the ultimate analysis saw India run the Aussies pretty close. And yes, Kumble’s prediction did come true with the bowlers dismissing the mighty Australian batting line up twice while scripting an unbelievable victory at Perth.

Indeed India can look back at the Test series with a sense of pride and look to the future with confidence. The `Fab Four’ continued to be among the runs, the bowling was a revelation and there were just a couple of failures. There were bonuses aplenty – the successful comeback of Virender Sehwag, the discovery of Ishant Sharma as a long term pace bowling prospect and the return of Irfan Pathan who now can finally be regarded as the all rounder that Indian cricket has been in search of since Manoj Prabhakar was discarded a dozen years ago.

The series was also a major triumph for Kumble the captain. I don’t mind admitting that I was against his appointment and had written that MS Dhoni should be given the reins in both forms of the game. I now spontaneously applaud Kumble who has shown himself to be a leader in more ways than one. It has not been an easy series for India for reasons that have been well chronicled. But amidst all the gloom and the controversy, the tantrums and the vitiated atmosphere Kumble’s leadership qualities have stood out both on and off the field. It is clearly an injustice that he could not finish with a shared series something that he strove hard to achieve.

Yes, there were problems. The failure of Wasim Jaffer and Harbhajan Singh to be among the runs and the wickets was pretty hard to cover up. Yuvraj Singh proved to be a major problem given his prodigious gifts and the fact that the batting line up was shaken up to accommodate him. Obviously he now has to bide his time before coming back into the reckoning. I have no doubt that he will be back for I have always believed that he is the leading light of the Generation Next of Indian batsmen.

But as I said even in defeat this Indian team has come out shining and the positives far outweighed the negatives. What more can one say about Sachin Tendulkar? I wonder what the journalist behind the infamous headline `Endulkar?’ that appeared in a national newspaper two years ago must be feeling right now. I had written then that the headline should be brushed aside as sensationalism or a vulgarly irresponsible job by a deskman who tried to be too clever but was made to eat humble and distasteful pie. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly had their moments while VVS Laxman as perhaps only to be expected improved his average against Australia even further. Sehwag coming good was perhaps the best news on the batting front.

Still as I said given the background it was the bowling that proved to be really heroic. One must not forget that Zaheer Khan played only in the first Test while Sreesanth was not available for the series. It seemed to be asking too much for the likes of RP Singh and Ishant Sharma to produce results while Pathan making a comeback only got in because Zaheer was injured. But Singh and Sharma with just nine Tests between them when the series started proved to be the surprise packets. The tall, gangling Sharma was verily the find of the series though the figures might not say so. Pathan as I said underlined his utility qualities and his right to be classified as an all rounder. But his place in the batting order is lower down and it is hoped that he has opened for India for the last time at Adelaide.

Some defeats are more glorious than victories. The West Indies were considered moral victors after Australia won the memorable series in 1960-61 such was the glorious cricket played by the visitors. This Indian team can take heart that in defeat if they were not moral victors in the eyes of many they deserved to share the series. This can be taken not as a jaundiced but a balanced view. Full marks to Kumble and his men for a performance that was as skilful as it was heartwarming.

 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
  India vs Australia - Batting and bowling worries for the hosts
  Future of Indian cricket is in good hands
  Future bright for Irfan Pathan
  Basil D'Oliveira was a mighty fine utility player
  Ashwin is a stayer, not a sprinter!
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