An India-Australia series gets top billing and this was a series to cherish for the home side. They lived up to their status as the No 1 Test side and played some enthralling cricket.
Forget what critics and pundits say about the IPL and Champions League being massive stepping stones for the young crop of Indian cricketers. Test cricket, and especially a Test series between two competitive sides, offers so much more than six weeks of bonhomie on the Twenty20 bandwagon. You can go through a lifetime of emotions in five days, and surely an afterlife if you happened to be a part of the Indian camp during the humdinger of a final day in Mohali.
Anil Kumble recently pointed out that the core of India’s tomorrow has to go from strength to strength on the field and in their minds, individually and as a unit. They have to get to know their own games, he said, and that doesn’t mean get to know how to play in a Test, ODI or Twenty20, but how to prepare mentally, to know ‘this is what I need to do to be at my best’.
It is rare that India have rookies to experience a series win in their first exposure to the national side; Murali Vijay and Amit Mishra were the last to do so when India beat Australia in 2008. Cheteshwar Pujara and Jaidev Unadkat have so much to learn from being in the dressing room through those five days of Test cricket, and to be on the field as the post-match talk and presentations panned out.
It was especially heartening to see a tired and sweaty Tendulkar hand over souvenir stumps to an enthusiastic and refreshed, shorts and slipped-clad Pragyan Ojha, emphatically: “Pujara ko ek dena.” The message was loud and clear – the debutant had played a big role in this series-winning victory, and he had to be recognized and made to feel important.
Unadkat did no more than bowl to the likes of Sehwag and Dravid (who was dismissed by left-handers thrice in the series, all got behind the wicket) in the nets before and during the Bangalore Test - the sole reason he was picked, according to Ravi Shastri – but he would have experienced so much. He is still some ways away from national reckoning, given that he’s yet to play a first-class game, but to be part of this series he would have been exposed to much more than possible while on tour with the A team or in the IPL. He needed to be a part of the celebrations after the win, and hopefully he will take those memories with him and ply away for Saurashtra with a new zest and vigor.
A winning environment breeds winners. If India can keep on winning, they won’t have to worry so much about the next generation.