London, July 27: Sri Lanka was in England just before their more illustrious neighbours India arrived to take on the English force in the world of cricket. When the Lankans played with the English, the crowd turn out was sparse and Test cricket in a country where it"s traditional values are respected and upheld, seemed to be losing its appeal.
Quickly fast-forward to the first Test of the four match Test Series with India and suddenly Test cricket was the buzz word in this part of world all over again. The Indian team has that effect. Whether the rest of the cricketing fraternity wants to accept or not, the fact remains that the force, the passion, the primary driving force of the game lies with India.
So the other teams can grumble all they like but India holds the key. Thanks to the Indian team. One could see crowds fill the stadium and give the 'Mecca" of cricket its record attendance of 28,000 spectators and more. The English may have introduced India to the game, but India is where it now thrives like no where else in the world.
Now that said, the five days of engrossing cricket came to a close and ironically those who lined up for hours on the final day, would have been the most disappointed. Given that a large chunk of the crowd was Indian, the massive 196 runs loss to England would rankle. But on the whole the Test was a fine example of how fortunes change session by session. Like an oscillating pendulum it swung this way and that.
It showed human character in the wake of challenge and also exposed human error. It"s the wholesome being of Test cricket that appeals and that"s what this Test exhibited. It was the 2000th Test and a fitting one at that. It had all the ingredients to be an explosive encounter of the best teams in world cricket in its longest format. And at the end of five days, one thing was clear and that was England were the much better prepared and cohesive unit than India ever were.
India"s biggest problem was the lack of energy. The team has been on the move for weeks now, with the tour in the West Indies preceding this one. There are no excuses, but the injury to the main bowler Zaheer Khan was frustrating to say the least.
Arguably one of the most injury prone in the side, Zaheer pulled out of the Test on the first day itself, leaving his captain to deal with the rest of the Test with three bowlers. The rest is now history and India just have to accept the fact that they were just not up to the mark when it mattered most. Of course, there are pluses to take out of the Test, Rahul Dravid and Laxmans tenacity, young Raina"s dogged fight on the final day but most of all the untiring efforts of pacers Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma.
The hosts in typical stoic stiff upper lip style have not come out with flamboyant statements, or euphoric reactions. To the contrary, captain Strauss expressed that India were indeed a tough unit and there was a lot of cricket left in the series.
Three Tests to go and the visitors know that things can only get better. The hosts have had the ideal start. And as is the nature of the game – you never know, till it happens. Test cricket lives on and how!