India take giant step toward greatness

India take giant step toward greatness

Dhonis men unearth heroes in every crisis

But India did the unthinkable, winning the Test by 63 runs, and their victory was based on a champion side’s ability to fight against the situation, and chart the course of their destiny. Their performance justified coach Duncan Fletcher’s view that India can dominate world cricket for the next five to ten years.

The first Test was also a pointer to the fact that India are developing fast into a truly great Test side, similar to the West Indies of the ’80s and the Australians of the ’90s. The domination of those two majestic teams was not built only on marvellous batsmen and wonderful bowlers, but it was a result made possible also by the efforts of players who were game for a street brawl.      
     
The explosiveness of Gordon Greenidge and Viv Richards was well supported by the pragmatism of Desmond Haynes and the determination of Malcolm Marshall and Andy Roberts. For Australia, Ian Healy, Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie came out like brave Knight Templars when their more accomplished colleagues failed to do the job.

The first sign of India finding real scrappers down the order came, perhaps, at Lord’s in 2007. England had India in a bind, but a young Mahendra Singh Dhoni, batting at number seven, made an unbeaten 76 off 159 balls to save the day and they were a totally transformed side in the next two Tests at Nottingham and the Oval.

Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh showed a similar will to fight against Australia at Bangalore in 2008, when they stitched together an 80-run alliance for the eighth wicket to deny Australia a substantial first-innings lead. India extracted abundance of energy from that gritty performance, winning the series 2-0.

Harbhajan entered the field in an even more dire situation at Sabina Park last week, and smashed 70 off 74 balls in the company of Suresh Raina. Their 146-run seventh-wicket partnership changed the course of the Test once and forever, in India’s favour.

The common thread in both stories here is Harbhajan. The Punjab cricketer has polished his skills as a batsman in the last three years, adding a new dimension to India’s team strategies. In 31 Tests at number eight, Harbhajan has scored 938 runs at 23.45 with two hundreds and five fifties. But the record becomes even more impressive after a closer scrutiny as Harbhajan has made 478 runs from seven Tests from October 2010 at 53.11 with two hundreds and two fifties.

It’s indeed a remarkable record for a player whose primary occupation is to bowl off-spin, and to lead the spin department. “Bhajji thinks he’s Don Bradman,” Tendulkar had remarked once.

Skipper Dhoni too hailed the contributions of the lower order. “If a batsman becomes a part-time bowler, then he needs to enjoy it rather than taking it up as an additional responsibility, and be in a situation where he is not enjoying it, and he is under pressure.

“That’s one of the main reasons why the lower order batsmen are contributing in their own ways. We don’t want them to always play and come up with big fifties and hundreds. It is really the partnership that is important that they forge with the main batsmen,” he said.

It has been the trait of all the champion sides, and India have made a welcome entry to the club.

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