Indian cricket is at a crossroads. This cliche can be used to describe just about anything that happens in our favourite national pastime. Yet, let me insist on the point: Indian cricket is indeed at a crossroads.
Because we're too attached to the past, too fearful of the future and, resultantly, completely clueless to the present. All the more reason to acknowledge the instructive nature of our recently-concluded tour Down Under. Despite the plastering, or perhaps because of it, we received a clutch of takeaways. Having said that, the real fun is in analyzing the takeaways for each individual player:
1) MS Dhoni
Captain Cool sucked in the longer format and played the "will he/won't he" card in the ODIs. The Unreal Times carried hilarious articles on Dhoni's penchant for bottling up his aggression till it was almost too late. Pundits either mocked his depleting skills or lauded his amazing poise in a crisis. However, I feel that nobody really placed a finger on Dhoni's true achievement in that freakish win against Australia. I mean, the man was a floundering mess of incompetence till the last over. He wasn't timing the ball. Nor did he have an answer to straight length balls bowled slightly wide of the off stump. Yet, he found the strength of character to launch a stratospheric six in the last over. That shot was followed by 3 plus 3 off the next two deliveries (only one of which was legal), and India was home. If you want to praise Dhoni, then do so for his ability to leap from the brink of shame and land safely on the turf reserved for heroes. Even though his perseverance with some players sometimes gets the better of this man, he still holds the key to our immediate future.
2) Virat Kohli
The kid made a momentous contribution in the World Cup finals. For that alone, his fame should outlast a nuclear annihilation. And on this tour, he underlined a fact that was already becoming evident: his wicket is the most precious in a batting line-up that includes Tendulkar. 'Nuff said.
3) Gautam Gambhir
There was a time when this chocolate boy packed the nougat's punch in his dimunitive frame. He still does. But is all well with the man who outplayed Sri Lanka's attack in the WC finals? Let's wait and see.
4) Virender Sehwag
I can hit every delivery to the boundary. Whoopie me! But then, I'll fall to a ruse so simple that even 4-year-olds will wisen up to it. Boo-hoo. I'm born to frustrate. On some occasions, the opposition is frustrated. More often, I make my own team weep.
5) Sachin Tendulkar
The few Sachin-bashers ridiculed his not-so-secret obsession with milestones. The horde of Sachin-lovers still see him as divine. Unfortunately, as a nation, we still can't muster enough Sachin-centrists. As usual, the man himself will decide his future, leaving us with no option but to observe silently from the sidelines.
6) Rohit Sharma
If he had that little something called presence of mind, he'd bat like Vivian Richards. In reality, his imprudent shot selection comes straight out of Vivien Leigh's Batting Manual. He's theoretically the best Indian batsman of his generation. Practically, he's a big nothing. He'll redeem himself yet in the Asia Cup. And we won't kick him out till he's done enough damage.
7) Ravindra Jadeja
The boy never surrenders his spunk. He showed, yet again, that he has a big heart. But is he the answer to our prayers for an all-rounder? Well, the Lankans have Mathews and the Aussies have Watson. Need we draw the full comparison?
8) Yuvraj Singh
He wasn't there, but his absence seeped into the middle order like battery fluid making inroads into an electronic chassis. The quintessential brat of Indian cricket is fighting a man's battle in a distant land. Everybody loves him right now. That's how it should be. He's showing us that the 21-yard battleground is a mere facade to issues that matter.
That rounds up the batsmen. I can do a round-up of the bowlers on popular demand. Meanwhile, IPL season is upon us. Anybody feeling the desire to retch?