The praises poured in from all quarters when the Indian team won big in the ODI series over Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Sad to say though, it seems that the ODI mentality has avalanched Test cricket mentality with this Indian squad. Their victory of the English in the Mohali Test demonstrated their will to win given a short time period. The bowlers really came through that time and the batsmen did not nullify the bowlers efforts. And then, as the saying goes, all havoc broke loose at Mumbai, even instigating some in the crowd to boo the home team and chant resonantly for Souravs return to the squad.
Given the passion the Indian fans have for their team keeping "Mum" in Mumbai over what transpired was uncontrollable and the floodgates of jeers were opened. Sachin, so used to hearing cheers upon a good innings or deafening silence over his dismissal, found himself relegated to booing from his home crowd. The final frontier was being opened as a gift wrapped offering to the visitors from the onset of the toss. Flintoff said it the best when he remarked that the only conditions under which hed bowl first in Mumbai was if the grass was up to his knees!
After the succession of wins over Sri Lanka in the Test and ODI series and wrapping up the ODI series in Pakistan, the pill the Indian team clinically offered the crowd at Mumbai was a bitter one to swallow. After all, the fans were treated to Sachins 35th Test century against the Lankans and the whopping ODI series wins in both the Pakistan and Sri Lanka series. One goal was met, improving the Indian ODI ranking. Who can forget the almost record partnership for the first wicket (410) orchestrated by Sehwag and Dravid? Im sure there were many of us who thought that Sehwag was on his way to another triple ton that day. Dravid stepped up to the plate and did incredibly well as an opener. So much so, that among the greatest opening batsmen himself, Geoff Boycott, was recommending that Dravid stay put in that spot.
Then came the real shocker, or were the Indian fans brought back to the ground of reality in two sickening thuds. One where the Pakistanis inflicted among the largest run margin defeats on the Indians which made one wonder if the first two Tests were just like the Lion Pakistan playing with his prey, giving it a false sense of security before going in for the kill. Worse was to come, when Dravid, after such a good season both in the Tests and ODIs made the cardinal mistake of choosing to bowl first in Mumbai! Did he have a false sense of confidence going in with five bowlers? Was he so itching to give this good on paper scheme a quick start that he forgot that those who dont remember history are doomed to repeat it?
It wasnt that Dravid had to go deep into the annals of Test cricket to uncover what happens to a team batting fourth at Mumbai. The past was as recent as the Aussies not being able to reach a target of 107 at the same venue. The World Champs couldnt do it - what made Dravid think that his team was better than the all conquering Aussies? Was it because it was on home soil that he had a misplaced sense of confidence? Then came all the couldve, shouldve, and wouldve stuff.
Also, lamentations are rife about India squandering their chances of going to the number 2 spot in the Test rankings. Do they really even deserve to be in the third spot? Pakistan should be at number 3 for the simple reason that they beat both England and India back to back. England deserves to be second because of their nerves of steel that outlasted the Aussies and the Indians. In both of those series, the British had injury problems and rose from the ashes to capture the Ashes and remind India that they need to guard the "final frontier" with more gusto as opposed to smug complacency.
Congratulations, Andrew Flintoff! What a performance! You truly led from the front and your spirit fueled the rest of your teammates to clinch a thriller. That was one 100 that Dravid will be apt to soon forget. We eagerly wait to see which Indian batsman will score a 100 in his 100th Test. Could it be Sehwag? His back is not backing him up too much. He may very well not last a 100 Tests if he doesnt do something quick about his frequent back spasms. Wouldn't it be a surprise if an Indian bowler is the one to score a century in his 100th Test? Given the surprising or shocking (depending on the day) revelations of team Indias talent, that wouldnt be far fetched.