Mughals-British, India-England: From epic battlefields to the cricket pitch
To this writer, the upcoming India vs England series has and can borrow heavily from the history of the Mughal empire and the advent of the British. A not-to-be-seriously-taken read at the historical linkage
Such is the state of this stereotypical sports journalist that even while off work and watching a history of Mughals on History channel, he could not help but see bobble-heads of Indian and English players replacing heads of past kings and generals. They say history repeats itself. In many ways, it may be true come November 15.
(Do note that the following historical references may not be entirely accurate and are used here only as a light, contextual tools.)
See, the Mughal empire was an extremely powerful, militarily strong force that dominated most of the sub-continent. It has been well-known and now documented that foreign powers did not dare challenge the might of the Mughals with an invasion, for long. Originating from a nomadic tribe in Central Asia, they were fierce warriors who built strong fortifications and their splendor was magnificent.
Fast forward a couple of centuries and, somehow, picture the Indian team as the Mughals. Skilled, mighty and extremely powerful in the sub-continent, the players are at ease with the conditions that many foreign teams regard as hostile - heat, humidity and turning tracks!
With a rigid central authority - called BCCI - bolstering its expansion, the Indian cricket empire has built a fierce reputation for itself, at home. Some may argue that the governing methods are questionable but in war, assuming cricket is war, victories are remembered the most. To illustrate, did you know how Mughal India's first emperor defeated Ibrahim Lodi - the king of Delhi? His some 10,000 troops engulfed Lodi's army of 100,000 in a trench-like opening and slaughtered them at Panipat. Fast forward and let's just equate BCCI as Babur, Lodi as ICC and Lodi's army as all others who are opposed to BCCI's ways of functioning. They may be huge in number but just take look at BCCI's might.
Returning to the realm of the upcoming India vs England series, the invaders are back in the sub-continent! They are looking to dominate the conditions and bring down the notion of 'Indian might at home.' These are not the writer's words. Conquering the Indian bastion, again, has been a legitimate quote since long - from Waugh to Vaughan.
Of course, India has some issues which are much like what the Mughals had too. And no, there is no intended reference here to the battles for successions!
MS Dhoni was like Akbar when battling for the fort of Chittaur. He was forceful in his ways, stylish and resourceful. His batting sent shockwaves all over the battleground much like the stomping of Mughal war elephants. Now, he or his batting mostly, resembles Shah Jahan. The goal of having a beautiful and majestic Taj (World Cup) has been achieved. Nothing absolutely stunning seems to be within his grasp looking forward. Sincere doubts though that Duncan Fletcher is as shrewd as Birbal (Akbar's minister) was cut out to be by folklore.
Then there are Sehwag, Harbhajan, Yuvraj and Zaheer. They are all generals with proven ability. Age though continues to not be on their side. All of them have found themselves with war-wounds at some point or the other, threatening to end their respective campaigns. Yuvraj though has managed to show Rajputana valour in his comeback to the war-front!
Then there is Virat Kohli. While he may not be fighting for the throne like Shahjahan's son -Aurangzeb - did, he clearly has a royal flair to him. Capable of expanding the empire further, his practical approach could immensely benefit the entire kingdom. Can be compared more with Tipu Sultan who was the final ruler to stand up and inflict pain on the English. Last year, Kohli was one of only two Indian batsmen who inflicted some pain on England - the other being Rahul Dravid - during their overseas tour.
Do remember though that one of the reasons sighted for the decline for Mughals and the rise of the British empire in India was the extravagance. Another was the lack of unity. Signs of both can be and has been amply seen in the current Indian team as well.
While the Indian frontier, protected by cannons of spin-hurling bombs, seem well-protected for now, the Kohinoor of international cricket - No.1 Test rank - has already been snatched lost. The English were formidable in the past, regardless of tactics used, and underestimating them continues to be one of the biggest follies that their enemies/rivals can make.