Time was on the minds of many Indian cricket fans on Sunday night, as Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid graced a field together for the final time. For Tendulkar, it was a final game in a Mumbai Indians shirt. For Dravid, it was his last competitive outing. It really was the sort of occasion that made you sit up and ask: Where did the time go?
Virender Sehwag in his pomp was as natural as they come, the most uncomplicated of ball-strikers. While others swore by notions like 'giving the first session to the bowler', Sehwag did what his eyes told him to.
When the Indian squad was announced for the first World Twenty20 in 2007, during the tour of England, there was no Sachin Tendulkar, no Rahul Dravid, no Sourav Ganguly and no Anil Kumble. The eminences of Indian cricket were to put their feet up after a gruelling tour that had seen them seal a first Test series win in the old country in 21 years.
The numbers reveal as much as they conceal - 87 wickets from 27 Tests, at an average of 37.59. What those figures don't tell you, though, is how he could change a game. At the end of the South African tour in January 2007, Allan Donald said that he had not come across any bowler who could hit the pitch with seam bolt upright ball after ball as Sreesanth had done at the Wanderers [he took 8 for 99].
Great works of architecture have the power to move you deeply. Most sporting venues aren't really comparable to the seven wonders in terms of architectural excellence, but there are aspects to them that can take the breath away. At the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, especially when it's nearly full, it's the Colosseum-like atmosphere that gets you. If you closed your eyes and tapped into your imagination, you could see the visiting batsmen become gladiators surrounding by roaring lions.
Make no mistake, Indian cricket needed this tour of South Africa. A team of young and inexperienced batsmen yet to prove themselves needed this journey to hell - playing the best team in the world in their backyard is as close as you'll get to sporting purgatory.
When India toured Australia in 2003-04, David Frith, one of the most formidable of cricket historians, told me that it was the finest batting line-up he'd seen in Australia, even better than the West Indies of the 1980s.
Steve Waugh won eight of the nine Ashes Tests in which he led - the Sydney loss in 2003 came with Australia 4-0 up - but his approach to the contests was shaped by his first experience of them, in 1986-87. He scored 310 runs and took 10 wickets at 33.6, but England won 2-1 on Australian soil.
The Ashes didn't stay relevant through a century of tumultuous change only because of the ties that bound the old empire and one of its farthest outposts. It mattered because it gave the fans something to look forward to.
Dileep was recently the Associate Editor at ESPN Cricinfo and is a contributor to publications around the world, including The Guardian in England and The National in the United Arab Emirates. Dileep started his journalistic career at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPN Cricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com.
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