Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Gen-Next

A win for the ages! Fortress Gabba breached after 32 years! A second-string Indian team defeats the Aussies in their own den! These are some of the statements that were the headlines following India’s amazing and truly heroic win in the Brisbane test, which brought to the forefront once again the immense talent of the next generation of our cricketers – the gen-next!

The fact that this win was achieved in the backdrop of absence of regular test captain and arguably the best batman in the world Virat Kohli, a long list of injured players, and having gone through the abyss of being bowled out for the lowest ever test score by any Indian team in the first test, makes it even more special. In all trueness, the series was won primarily due to the performances of the debutants like Shubhman Gill, Washington Sundar, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur, seasoned players like Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, and not to forget, the man of the hour, Rishabh Pant, who played some scintillating innings, which helped save the match in Sydney and a win in Brisbane.

I feel that the advent of social media has made the fan following a bit of an extreme phenomenon, with extreme appreciation in case of a superb win like this and utter damnation when the team is down in the depths like it was with 36 all-out. Not to mention that there have been cases like that in the past, with Sachin being booed in Wankhede in 2006 against England and Dravid and the team being booed in Kolkata in 2005 in the backdrop of Ganguly-Chappell saga. But I feel that the fame, or condemnation, is bit too instant these days, just like the lifestyle. In one moment, you are made like a God, and in very next match, you face the wrath of trolls. For sure, not a scenario the players would like either, one can be sure.

That is why, I feel, that these players, the young crop, need to show the similar drive, and fire, for at least next couple of years, to cement their place in the team, with all the talent bursting through the domestic circuit. Not long ago, Pant had to face the ignominy of facing the chants of ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’ whenever he dropped a catch or missed a stumping (he has the additional pressure of getting the DRS calls right, which Dhoni almost never got wrong). We need to remember that Dhoni played quite consistent brand of cricket in his formative years – let it be as a hard-hitting basher – as well as in the subsequent years, as a finisher and captain cool. Pant has big boots to fill in. That it is not impossible. Virat Kohli has created his own legacy, on verge of breaking Sachin’s records. The key is consistency, which is the hardest to achieve, at the global level. You need to play like a champion, at most times. This win has made all of us know what these players are capable of, and they need to be supported and cheered on, even on their off days. It is really fortunate for Indian cricket to have the young players coming in the team and performing instantly, something which as a 90’s cricket fan, I have been used to seeing in Aussie team only. 

As for Pant, his wicketkeeping is a work in progress. Whenever Wriddhiman Saha gets a chance, he shows the difference in level of keeping and the improvement that Pant still must make. For it will not be a surprise to see the  same fans cheering him on today to turn on him if he happens to make a costly miss in a high-stakes match. Those ‘Dhoni’ chants will come back again because that is how the fans are these days. Those misses can cost a match, as Tim Paine learned the hard way, who now stands to lose not only his captaincy but also his place in the team. Moreover, one can never be sure of their place being guaranteed in the team, even after career best performance - ask Karun Nair. For that matter, I would hope that Hanuma Vihari will not be overlooked once he makes a return after recovering from his second-grade muscle tear injury.

However, now is the time to enjoy the toils of the hard work and celebrate this once in a lifetime win. The players deserve all the credit, and we all hope that this is the starting of a long, consistent, and successful career for all these players, to make the country proud.

India beats Australia on last day of Gabba Test, winning Border-Gavaskar  Trophy with remarkable run chase - ABC News

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