Wow! Second time in a row, India began the series in the trenches and somehow managed to summit.
The last time was against South Africa in India. Till the last match in Kolkata, we appeared anything but the #1 Test team in the world. We dithered, grunted, moped and surrendered to the Proteas who have always managed to hold their own in the subcontinent. And then, Harbhajan came to the party - as he does once every three years.
And if the home series against SA put us in a desperate corner, the away series against the Lankans seemed like the twilight zone for our #1 status. Most of our frontline bowlers were already injured. Others joined their ranks midway through the series. On top of that, Yuvraj and Gambhir succumbed to untimely injuries and Dravid looked about as composed as a virgin on a lust-bed.
So the third test became a contest between an "India A" team and a Lankan side that seemed to have shrugged off Murali's absence with minimum fuss. Before the Test began, I told myself that we had an outside chance if we won the toss and batted first. Dhoni, of course, lost his third toss in a row and the Lankans piled up a great total. I, for one, plastered my shattered dreams and sobbed myself to sleep at the end of Day 2. And then Viru, Laxman, Raina, Mithun and Mishra showed us that the team batting second can take a meagre lead against a superior bowling outfit. The only major blemish from that point was that we allowed Mendis to make amends with the bat, for his carrom balls weren't "striking" home.
In both innings, Laxman handled his wand with typical deftness and flourish. Has any batsman in the history of the game been more mesmerizing when on song? (Let's not mar this wonderful day by mentioning how inept he looks on other days... oops! Too late!!)
Anyway, I get this warm feeling whenever Laxman and Dravid do well. Because even unsung heroes deserve the occasional ode. Which, incidentally, sounds sweeter when it proclaims a reversal of fortunes. How else can we describe this series? The Indian team did not even show up for the first seven days of the series. Before the fifteenth day ended, we had leveled the conflict, shared the honours and somehow managed to cling on to the coveted #1 ranking.
Well, let's say that two consecutive occurences is a trend. And let's hope it's here to stay.
P.S: Have we found a reliable middle-order bat in Raina? Only time can tell. Also, I'm excited about Cheteshwar Poojara, but could we please give a dignified farewell to Dravid before he's ushered in?