It all began with the T20 World Cup when Dhoni and his young brigade overpowered their cricket rivals Pakistan in a thriller of a match on 24th September 2007. Dhoni was named the ODI captain of India and he started his proceedings with a fabulous win Down Under.
The beginning of 2008 was marred by ‘racist’ incidents involving Australian Andrew Symonds and India’s Harbhajan Singh. Symonds claimed that Bhajji had called him a ‘monkey’. Things, however, were sorted out with BCCI interfering and threatening to pull out of the series. Sledging and appeals for ‘dropped’ catches continued for the entire series.
The first Test at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and the second at the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) were won by Australia with big margins. The wins did not make that big an impact on the cricketing fraternity for two reasons: Australia were used to winning 9 out of 10 matches in ‘those days’. Secondly, and most importantly, the arrogant, bad-mannered and unsportsmanlike behaviour tainted the big margin victory by the ‘then-mighty’ Aussies.
If we try to recall the Test series, two things come to mind. One that it had complete masala for high TRPs and next the beginning of the end of Australian dominance from WACA, Perth - the venue for the third Test. The big-headed Shaun Tait tried to ring warning bells for the Indians announcing that he would tear apart the famed Indian batting line up on the ferociously fast WACA wicket. What we knew next was that India won the third Test comprehensively with Tait in depression announcing ‘temporary retirement’ from the game. India’s one win created a bigger impact and wallop than the two thumping victories by the Oz.
The series score line was hmmm…hmmm... oh forget it. It didn’t matter to anyone. All that we were concerned with was that team India emerged ‘victorious’ in the Tests.
The ODIs followed and so did India’s resurgence. It was the CB Series involving Sri Lanka apart from India and Australia.
The first couples of matches were washed out and then wins followed against both the teams amidst a couple of losses too. India managed a berth in the best-of-three finals with Australia being the other finalist. The message from the Australian camp was, ‘The third final won’t be required’ and truly it wasn’t.
India won the first and second final to prove their opposition right. India had started to respect the opposition’s words. The blade in Sachin’s hands worked like the fabled Dumbledore magic wand. An unbeaten century in the first and 91 in the second final was enough to put Australia down and out. India had done it. They had beaten the World Champions back-to-back in the finals in their own backyard. Sledging was answered with some heavy scoring.
Dhoni’s captaincy was lauded by many. But it was just the beginning. There was quite a lot to follow.
South Africa’s tour passed by with the three Test series drawn 1-1.
The Kitply Cup followed where Bangladesh, Pakistan and India were involved. Continuing with their new winning ways under the captaincy of cool headed Dhoni, they faltered at the final hurdle when Pakistan beat India by 25 runs. Chasing 316 for victory, India were bundled out for 290 with 10 deliveries remaining. It was a loss surely, but the transition in team India was showing, prominently.
Another final and another defeat. This time it was at the hands of Sri Lanka and undoubtedly an embarrassing one. The brand new sensation Ajantha Mendis came into picture. He deceived the best players of spin and spun all in his web to guide Lanka to a thumping 100 run victory for them to lift the Asia Cup. India’s defeat had been scripted in the 8 overs that Mendis bowled, while giving away 13 runs and packing the bags of six Indian batsmen.
Call it sheer bad luck or Mendis-o-phobia, India lost the three Test series 2-1 when they toured Lanka soon after the Asia Cup. However, thankfully, India had not forgotten how to win amidst the Mendis mania either. The ODI series proved good for India and MS Dhoni, again. The captain guided his team to a 3-2 victory in the 5 match ODI series with his intelligent captaincy and a crucial knock which also earned him the man-of-the-series. India and Dhoni had broken out of the shell. Both were evolving.
With the autumn of September-October came the bruised Australians with their heart filled with the idea of revenge. India had, early in the year, hunted down the kangaroos in their own den. Fighting them with the home crowd behind wasn’t that tough or should it be said that it wasn’t tough at all. The first and third Tests were drawn. The second and fourth spelled doom for the self proclaimed ‘still mighty’ Australia. 2-0 was the score line of the series. Loss is one thing, embarrassment is another. Losing by 320 runs in the second and 172 runs in the fourth is ‘so-not Australian’ mate.
The best was yet to come - England’s tour of India. South Africa had toured England prior to England’s tour to the sub-continent. Under the new leader Kevin Pietersen, England smashed, thrashed and bashed Graeme Smith’s team left right and centre winning the 5 match ODI series 4-0, the last match being washed due to rain.
With their tails up, England arrived to a warm welcome. In store were 7 ODIs and 2 Tests. What they did not know was their fate in this part of the world.
Playing India or let’s say Yuvraj Singh for the first time after the T20 encounter, England found themselves in the same position, thanks to same person. Yuvraj blasted away to a scintillating century to take India to a 158 run victory in the first ODI. Imagine what Stuart Broad might be thinking when he was on the run up for the first delivery to Yuvi after the ‘sixth delivery’ at Kingsmead!
The second ODI was no better for England. It seemed as if it was England versus Yuvraj where the southpaw won again, scoring over a hundred again, this time a more matured one.
The story for the rest of the series remains the same. At the end of the 5th match of the 7 match ODI series, the score line was 5-0 to India. Then the black day of Indian history came. 26th November – the day the financial capital of the country, Mumbai was attacked and it wrecked havoc not only across the country but the entire world. The biggest terror attack in India forced the English team to return home with the last two matches being cancelled.
However, England returned for the sake of the game after the situation settled and complete security was guaranteed.
The first Test match played at Chennai saw cricket at its best. Chasing an enormous target of 387 for victory, Sehwag played a blistering knock of 83 to set the game for India. The hosts required 256 on the final day. Sachin arrived at the crease. Not many knew he had saved his best for the victims and heroes of the Mumbai Massacre. A fabulous unbeaten century from his blade, his 41st, left England bleeding. India had chased the fourth highest total for victory and the highest on Indian soil.
India did something that they were not-so-famous for. This was the way the Australians always played – going for the kill. Adopting the ‘attack is the best form of defence’ method, India continued to butcher the England team.
Clearly, this is the beginning of the end of India’s inconsistency!