The fireworks exploding behind the presentation stage after India beat Australia in the tri-series final were not the only ones to add spark to an overheated summer.
As India’s young team celebrated wildly, many observers wondered if they were witnessing a changing of the guard of world cricket, and whether India’s aggressive approach was a reflection of a country growing in self-belief.
The four-Test and one-day series, which ended on Tuesday, provided some of the most scintillating cricket ever seen in Australia. Yet the Indian tour will be remembered more for what happened off the field than on it.
Umpiring controversies, accusations of racism against spinner Harbhajan Singh, perceived power plays by the Indian cricket board and bitter animosity between a number of opposing players soured the summer.
When combined with moments of high farce, such as Andrew Symonds’ crash tackle of a streaker in the second one-day final, it was sometimes hard to remember that the two best teams in world cricket were fighting for supremacy. “I guess with this summer, it’s been a pretty constant stream of things that you’re hearing or reading about or seeing that I’ve had to answer,” admitted Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.
“It’s been more constant this year than it probably has in the past. But I’m not making any excuses for me or the team why we haven’t played well.” India arrived in Australia at the end of December for the traditional Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, but when they surrendered meekly to suffer a massive 337-run loss there was no indication of the drama to come.
Just three days later they were in Sydney for a Test match that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. India were on the receiving end of a number of poor umpiring decisions which they feel cost them the match — they lost by 122 runs.
And to add insult to injury abrasive spinner Harbahjan Singh was reported by the Australians for racially abusing Symonds and subsequently suspended for three matches. The Indians responded by threatening to call the tour off and refused to travel to Canberra for a practice match.
After umpire Steve Bucknor — blamed for most of the poor decisions — was stood down for the third Test in Perth and Harbhajan’s ban was lifted until a hearing following the fourth Test in Adelaide, the Indians agreed to continue.
They then surprised everyone by storming to a 72-run victory in Perth and subsequently drawing in Adelaide. India surprised again by sending veterans Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Saurav Ganguly home and bringing out a raft of young players for the triangular one-day series.
This decision looked flawed as the rampant Australians stormed through the preliminary games against India and Sri Lanka, but as the series wore on players like Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, and Ishant Sharma began to flourish.
The series provided a stark contrast of age verses experience, and the first real indication that other teams no longer fear Australia in the post-Glenn McGrath/Shane Warne era. The sight of a retiring Adam Gilchrist trudging off for the last time on Tuesday was a reminder that Australia is struggling after almost two decades at the top, just as the sight of Kumar destroying the Australian top order was an indication that India are a team on the up.
“It’s very important because I believe this is a building stage of my team because of our youngsters,” said Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni After Tuesday’s victory. His side will be keen to continue their rise when they host South Africa in March-April. Australia, assuming they pull out of the upcoming tour of Pakistan, won’t regroup until they tour the West Indies in May-July.
Source:Cricket NewsMore on:Australia, CB Series, Harbhajan Singh, India, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Thursday, March 6th, 2008 and is filed under General, Cricket.
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