Saturday, March 15, 2008

Taming of the Kangaroos ...

Congratulations to Indian team for this picture:

picture of Indian team

Of course, this is way too late. But the visitors did a marvelous job of pushing the mighty Australians, as they seem to slip from a lofty perch. Believe it or not, this is an amazing feat. It might be one of the best tours that Indian Cricket team has ever had! Doing it to them in their country is a really tough task, mentally and physically. It must have taken a toll on everyone's body and mind, but in the end, Indians emerged victorious. That was unforgettable.

Sachin, without a doubt, was the hero of the series. Gautam played brilliantly, although I felt he was in a hurry to end it, Dhoni led tactfully, Ishant and Praveen bowled penetratingly well, everyone fielded superbly. I don't think this alone wins a match or a series against Australia because playing them is a different thing. Winning against them is something several thought was unheard of, at least in recent times.

Arguably, if you play better cricket than Australia, you can win. I always believed in that. But playing against Australia takes so many different shades and covers such a vast set of skills both on- and off-the-field that it is rarely a possibility. No doubt, they play hard, they give more than 100%. But they play a war, not a sport, where for one to win, other has to lose.

Years and years ago, I had a debate with a friend of mine who believed that you should compete to enjoy. I insisted that you should compete to win. It's hard to say who was right, because the terms of competition were not disclosed. Well, I always thought that you use all your sport-skills to win. Winning has to be the oxygen that keeps the sport lively.

But with lot at stake, this can easily be misused. The tactics of Australians were all hidden till now. They were the masters of doing the things they do on-the-field. Sledging was their 12th man on-field, when going got tough. A little mischief, a slur here and there, a nasty non-cricketing, beamer-like-delivery when a is getting to a 100 -- it all looks like a Script-To-Win-At-Any-Cost, from a distance.

Sachin is a gentleman and maybe that's why he accepted Brett's apology for the beamer

that hit him on the helmet. Repercussions of this act would have changed the outcome of the game. Now, yes, I do agree it was a slip. But was it not intentional? Can't say. Can you discount Brett Lee and say he would have never meant it? Can't say. Really, can't say. If I were naive enough, I'd have dismissed any possibility of a foul play here. But if I am aware that one of the teams is a win-hungry team, it changes my perception of the team, and sadly, of their game!

Against such a team, India pulled off an amazing series win. I never saw Australians getting out in such a programmatic fashion. I hope there is no match-fixing involved here, because both teams fought bitterly and reputation was at stake.

As an Indian, I feel bad when Harbhajan and Sreesanth mistake some pompous comments. But I now think that it is pardonable and perhaps, part of the overall game, if all you want to do is win.

What distinguishes Sachin is the fact that all he wants to do is play, play for the team he's part of. He's accepted the simple Numero Uno Rule that to win, you have to know what a defeat is like, and of course, you can't be winning forever.

I don't think Australians are in the trenches. They are going to bounce back from their disheartening loss, probably with a vengeance. But this series has done wonders and I think this India's tour of Australia proved it to world that Aussies are beatable with or without the help of the tricks that they are leaders of.

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