Twenty one years it took the Indian cricket team to win another series in England. Rather long, but then again it's better late than later! The recently concluded Test Series between India and England, ended 1-0 in favour of the visitors.
And what better timing, that just 2 days before India's 60th Independence day celebrations. The English over stayed their time in India and what they behind was a bitter taste in the mouth. But beating them in a game that they introduced to India, now, that feeling could not taste any sweeter!
The three Test series was an entertaining spectacle, for the cricket played and the characteristics displayed of certain players. In the first Test, the hosts could have easily taken a 1-0 lead, but the rain Gods intervened and the Indians hung on by the skin of their teeth. Thanks to a spirited knock of 76 not out by MS Dhoni, the Indians managed to just about make it home dry, with a little help from the wetness that ended play in the nick of time.
The moments from the Lord's Test comprised England's pin up boy Kevin Pietersen's 134 which was to become the highest score for the series - 134! Alec Stewart's hard fought 96 in the first innings. James Anderson finishing the match with 7 wickets and for the Indians young RP Singh getting a five for. The other bowlers who went back smiling after this Test were Ryan Sidebottom and Zaheer Khan both finishing with 6 wickets a piece.
The caravan then moved on to Nottingham, Trentbridge. India managed a convincing 7 wicket win over the hosts, and the memories that they will treasure from this match would be the overall team effort that came to the fore. The hosts were bundled out for 198 in their first innings, with Zaheer Khan taking 4 wickets and the wise old fox, Kumble spinning his magic to get 3 wickets.
The Indians showed that when they want to, they can come together as a cohesive unit. In their first innings, no one scored a century but the contributions from all top order batsmen meant that India could amass a score of 481. The English were bowled out for 355 with another spirited spell from Zaheer Khan who ended up taking 9 wickets in the match. This wholesome and well executed exhibition from the Indians meant that they would go one up in the series and set up the Oval Test to be another entertainer.
The contesting teams made their way back to London where many cricketing battles have been fought, but this time the battleground was the Oval. India were looking to win or draw the match as they have not won an overseas series in more than two decades. Ofcourse now we all know, that this feat was achieved and the champagne bottles were popped open.
But it was no simple win, in fact there was much debate and conjecture. We are after all a nation of arm chair cricketers. After winning the toss, captain Rahul Dravid elected to bat on what promised to be a batting bonanza of a pitch. It's not surprising then that India went on to score 664 in the first innings, but what was amazing was the fact that the spin king, Anil Kumble became the lone centurion for his country.
That's right, the 36 year old came into bat when the Indians were 6 down for 417 and he remained unbeaten right to the end, with an unbeaten 110 to his credit. Young opener Karthik and the enthralling wicket keeper batsman MS Dhoni both missed their tons by a margin of a few runs. The hosts, playing for pride managed to get to 345 in the first innings and could have been put into bat right away, in a follow- on situation. But the Indian captain chose not to enforce the follow- on.
A decision that will be debated for a while, some feeling that the Indians just don't have that aggressive edge, others pontificating on the physical stress on the bowlers, a reason that the captain advocated. All in all the popular consensus was that the decision to enforce the follow- on should have been taken. Playing safe shows that the Indians don't possess the killing instinct. Agree or disagree, the debate will continue. In the end, the Indians won and that's all that matters.
The visuals that were beamed across the waves were refreshing to say the least. Ecstatic cries of victory and faces that painted such a content picture. Men were suddenly transformed into boys just after winning the much-awaited series. These are the moments, the cameos that one will take away from the series. This is what one can call the icing in a sport. The moments that are cherished for years to come.
The Test series is over but questions will be asked as to whether the Indians need a cricket coach or does this system of one bowling coach, fielding coach and Manager work? Is Rahul Dravid a much more relaxed captain now, may be not aggressive, but calmer? Is the team a more cohesive unit, and are the dressing room tales more positive now?
Time will give us the answers. In the meantime, we can just contemplate as to what works and what does not work!
And for those who still wonder why Test Cricket survives, is this series not reason enough?