From despair to hope - the Indian journey
When a team is doing well, nothing succeeds like success. Nothing succeeds like failure too, as the Indians discovered in Australia and their rivals are discovering in India now. The emergence of a bunch of exciting players in one team has to be seen against the background of poor player management and the mental disintegration ironically a phrase favoured by former captain Steve Waugh of the other.
In Bangalore where I live, it is said that if you took your eyes off a main street, it would be unrecognisable within a week as another mall, another extension of the metro or a whole set of new buildings seemed to crop up. The Indian cricket team has been Bangalored - not in the Obama sense, but in the manner in which new personnel have replaced the stalwarts.
Wasn't it just yesterday that India opened with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, had Rahul Dravid at three, followed by Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and so on with the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan making up the bowling attack?
Now, only Tendulkar of that group of players remains. India's transition from No. 1 back to No. 1 is nowhere near complete - they will have to win with some consistency abroad for that - but the gentle, almost silent revolution that has been unfolding before our eyes has been fascinating to watch.
Just over a year ago, as India were being handed their eighth consecutive defeat abroad in Adelaide, there was acknowledgement that this was the beginning of the end. The Golden Era had definitely wound down. Now 3-0 up against Australia, and in with a realistic chance of making it 4-0, it is the beginning of another beginning. Players who were not born when Tendulkar made his Test debut are now sharing the dressing room with him and playing significant roles in India's rehabilitation. Only four who played in that Adelaide Test survive, and suddenly the BCCI's inactivity in the face of that carnage is beginning to look like master strategy. As too is Dhoni's refusal to get drawn into panic.
Shikhar Dhawan has emerged as the most exciting debutant since Virender Sehwag, and even if he doesn't touch the heights he reached in Mohali, he has assured himself of a decent run in the team. More, he might have raised the hopes of those like Ajinkya Rahane, who have been on the fringes of the team for long without getting a look-in. When one decision pays off so handsomely, selectors tend to gain in confidence and are more willing to listen to youngsters knocking at the door.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has made his mark too. Despite skipper Dhoni's strange decision to ignore him on the final day of the Test after the bowler had claimed all three wickets to fall the previous day, this bustling cricketer has been a find of the series too. By dismissing the world's best batsman Michael Clarke five times in the series, Ravindra Jadeja has had the last laugh after being the butt of many jokes for his alleged left-arm spin.
When a team is doing well, nothing succeeds like success. Nothing succeeds like failure too, as the Indians discovered in Australia and their rivals are discovering in India now. The emergence of a bunch of exciting players in one team has to be seen against the background of poor player management and the mental disintegration - ironically a phrase favoured by former captain Steve Waugh - of the other.
India's success must be measured against the fact this is one of the weakest Australian teams to tour the country. When such a team is thrashed, the weaknesses in the winning team tend to get covered up. Nothing that happened on the dust bowls of India suggested that their bowlers can take 20 wickets in a match abroad. Nor is there certainty that those who piled up huge scores will repeat when India take on South Africa in their next series in November. But that is for the future, and it would be churlish to do anything but celebrate now.
For a team that was down and out a year ago and then lost a home series to England earlier this year - and you can't get lower than that - there are signs of what economists like to call green shoots. Sport survives on hope, and the shift from despair to hope has been the story of this series.