Are we as Indian fans about to embark on a journey we could only have ever dreamt of? Will we be the dominant force on the playing field? Will we ever shake off the tag of ‘paper Tigers’? I along with many others have pondered these questions. There have been some false dawns but now it seems we can dare to dream again. The past 12 months have been one of a kind. We have played more test matches than I can ever remember during any 12 month period and most of those away from home. At the Oval, I feel the team is firmly on the path to greatness. First, they breached the ‘Gabbatoir’, then they invaded the sacred Lords Longroom and now they have outshone at the Oval. This blog is about each Indian victory away from home in the last 9 months, we – the fans dreamt of for so many years.
Read More: The 51.5 Overs’ Theatrical Drama
There are three different victories, each one unique in its own sense on the 5th day of the test match. They will mean something different to everyone but it’s the progression rusty interests me.
Breaching the Gabbatoir – The Indian victory for ages
“We can’t wait to get you to the Gabba”. This now infamous line awoke the beast. An injured, tired and depleted beast but not the one that had lost its fight. This was a fairytale victory. One we all dreamt of but knew in our hearts that something like this can never happen.
Consider a 3rd choice bowling attack that hadn’t even played 10 tests combined being led by a guy who had lost his father back home whilst he was on tour. Against a team playing at their most successful ground, a ground they had not lost in for 34 years. At the start of day 5, it was 328 runs or 10 wickets. The smart money was always on 10 wickets. Two youngsters stepped up. Shubman Gill with his stroke-filled 91, but it was Pant with a blistering 89* that captured the imagination and brought the victory home. The dream was realized!
Lord’s – Smash and Grab!
The Longroom is sacred. For most, it’s the representation of not only English cricket but English culture. For you or I to gain access to it would take 2 recommendations from members and then a wait for 30 odd years. It holds portraits of all previous England captains. It is a metaphoric fortress. That was invaded by Virat and his men in celebration of Bumrah and Shami. This was only Act 1 of the proceedings, literally the smash. Naturally, after the smash, came the Grab.
When you have 60 overs to bowled the opposition out on the last day, you can’t do much more than being positive. However, captain Kohli had some other ideas. The captain was very clear: “For 60 overs, they should feel hell out there” were the words of the commander to his troupe. Each one of them exerted unimaginable pressure, with the bowling, fielding, and most importantly: the positive attitude. England crumbled, and fizzing out in 51.5 overs. The pressure was too much, the bowling too good and the victory was again memorable.
The significance of the Oval
Day 1: even before the teams had taken the field India was behind, the toss was lost again. After two batting collapses in Leeds, we were not hopeful. Again there was a collapse. For the next 3 days, it seemed no team wanted to win this game. However, it looked as if all four results were possible on the day. Looking at the pitch & weather conditions, the draw was my favorite. After all, Anderson, the best swing bowler of the past decade couldn’t find any swing – conventional or reverse – on toiling either of the third or fourth days.
This may not have been the most spectacular of victories but I feel it was the most significant. All the wickets were shared. Yes, Bumrah bowled the spell of the year but he didn’t run through the batting order. Jadeja had a little rough to work with but bowled economically and got two wickets. We have been waiting for Hardik Pandya to be fit enough to bowl, but Shardul is now way ahead as the seam-bowling all-rounder. he had major contributions in 3 of the 4 innings. There is a reason he is known as Lord, after all.
This win is more significant because it’s the way great teams win matches. When the opposition looked good and their bowlers couldn’t find any movement on a docile pitch, Indian bowlers did. We can now really believe.