The End of an Era (. ! ?)
When Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja came-out to bat on the 3rd session of 2nd day in Sydney, the Aussie were almost out of the contest. It was only the second day of the ultimate test of Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2018–19. India were already 2–1 up and eyeing a historic series win in Australia. Cheteshwar Pujara had once again ensured that the Aussies find it difficult to be in the contest with an innings of class and patience. Pujara got out to Lyon for 193, his third century of the series. As Pant and Jadeja took crease, the intent was clear. The pair was entrusted with the task of knocking the Aussies out in a way that they won’t be able to recover. And so they did. It was only Mother Nature who intervened and made sure that although the Indians win the series, the Aussies aren’t humiliated beyond repair.
For the early millennials in India, the World-Cup of 1996 was perhaps their true initiation to cricket and especially so as this was the first Global Event to be hosted by the country (albeit jointly) post the liberalization of 1991. The Aussie team which had started rebuilding under Border was a Champion team by then and one of the favorites to win the tournament. They looked good to win the whole thing as well till Arjuna Ranatunga’s Army became the second underdogs after India in 1983 to cause an upset in a World Cup final and win their first Global Tournament in any sports. Mired in civil war, perhaps the needs of the Sri Lankans for a success was much more than the desire of the Aussies of World Domination in a sport. But Lahore ’96 was just a blip in their eventual journey towards becoming the most successful Cricket team and perhaps one of the best sporting team of all time. In the 90s and the first decade of the new millennium, Australia were the benchmark in cricket. While everyone strived to play like them, no one ever quite succeeded. They played extremely hard but fair. They will not give an inch on the field. Even when you would snatch an inch or a few like India in 2001 or England a few years later, the Aussies bounced back immediately to reclaim which by then they had assumed was their own. The title of the Best Team in World Cricket.
Every good thing must end. And the beginning of the end of the Aussie dominance started with the departures of the likes of Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Hayden, Langer, Ponting et al in the second half of last decade. But they were still a force to reckon with in they own yard. Today, India have ensured that the golden era of Aussies cricket is well and truly over. The fact that the Golden Era took more than 10 years to end after the beginning of its end is a tribute to the quintessential Aussie qualities of Grit, Determination and Doggedness.
In-fact, end wasn’t even a surety. A year back, Aussies seem to be rebuilding under the resolute Steven Smith and feisty David Warner on one hand and a core group of good bowlers on the other with the aim to reverse the decline of the great Aussie team. Although a shadow of its glorious past, the team with Smith and Warner at its core almost always ensured that they fought hard enough to atleast stay in the contest if not win it. Perhaps, it was in this desire to achieve the past glories that the team and Smith and Warner in particular made a folly. The decline which could have been arrested went into free-fall.
The enigmatic duo are set to return before the World Cup. The entire Nation which takes absolute pride in who they are and the way they play, is willing to give the duo a second chance. Not only that, they are also hoping that under Smith and Warner the team can rise again from the Ashes to win the Ashes. But will the duo be as prolific as they were before their bans? How much has the “Sandpaper-Gate” affected them mentally? Can they ever exorcise the ghost of that South African Tour? Physically, they may be absolutely fit to play the international game. But when they go out onto the 22 yards, how will their minds react?
The comeback of Smith and Warner and its impact on Aussie cricket is being anticipated with deep breathes across the cricketing world.
Has the era of Aussie dominance completely ended? Will they go down the path of West Indies? Is there one last fight left? Will Smith and Warner, villians a year ago, turn out to be the Superhero who would save the legacy of the Warnes and Waughs, of the McDermotts and McGraths?
As we wait, let’s savour this moment as an Indian Cricket Fan. In 1948, the first Indian team landed on Aussie shores to play Bradman’s Australia. Decades of fights, determination, patience, courage, and sometimes humiliation and embarrassment followed. 70 years hence, the Indians achieve one of the most coveted goals in Cricket, defeating Australia in a Test Series IN Australia.