“Johannesburg and Trent Bridge are witnesses to India’s growth as a touring side”
“We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known………….”
These lines spoken by Joseph Cooper, the chief protagonist in the science fiction, Interstellar, by Christopher Nolan hold a special meaning in the aftermath of India’s win at Trent Bridge in the third Test of the series against England.
Crumbled, humbled and swallowed as a whole by England at Lord’s, India needed something special to salvage this series. There are umpteen instances in the history of Indian cricket where they are blanked by opposition teams in their backyard. From 2012 to 2014, India lost series’ in Australia (twice), England, New Zealand and South Africa. Importantly, they won just one match (that Lord’s Test of 2014) in the entire list of matches in these countries in the mentioned time period.
2018 began no differently. They lost the first two Tests in South Africa, struggling to find their feet against the host’s seamers on fresh, grassy surfaces. But at Johannesburg, home to one of the most intimidating grounds in cricket, India pulled one back in extreme conditions. It wasn’t just a mere fightback. It was a statement from a new India, an Indian team like no other.
Even as the team succumbed to the Proteas in the first two games, there was unmistakable arrogance, confidence if you will, in India’s press conferences. Led by the unapologetically uber confident Virat Kohli and backed up by an equally brash Ravi Shastri, this Indian side is one of a kind.
That there was widespread surprise when they were 2-0 down after the first two Tests in England is in itself a credit to the metamorphosis this team has undergone under Kohli – Shastri. Make no mistake, they aren’t easily likeable. They mince no words and come across as overtly aggressive. But this team needed an enforcer, someone who would push the team to play fearless cricket, someone who would stand up and take charge when things go wrong. Kohli is just that.
“I don’t have to spell out what he [Kohli] has done in the last four years. When you perform in that fashion, you are mentally at a different level as well,” Shastri had said prior to the series in reference to Kohli’s woes in England. Emphatically backing up his coach was Kohli, slamming a hundred in the first Test and following it up with 97 and yet another hundred here at Trent Bridge.
“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” states Murphy’s law. Everything could have gone wrong for Kohli and India here in England. They were headed down a shortcut to the bottom of a rubble at Lord’s but to find ammunition from there to sore directly to the skies speaks volumes about the character of this Test side.
“Murphy’s law doesn’t mean that something bad will happen. It means that whatever can happen, will happen,” Cooper says in Interstellar. Finding new interpretations to established facts and accepted views is a difficult ask but like Cooper, Kohli and co have found a way past their Murphy’s law or prophecy if you may call it that.
Right from their supposed weak-link, Hardik Pandya, to their fast bowler returning from injury, Jasprit Bumrah, every member in the side fought to bring India back from the dead. And come back, they did!
Trent Bridge would long be remembered for this Indian performance. Everything that could have gone wrong, didn’t go wrong. Everything that could have come right, came right. England’s weaknesses were exposed and laid bare before the public.
They may not always walk their talk (they talk a LOT!), but the new Indian side sure knows to rub it off on the face of their critics. From an all-time low to an all-time high is an incredible crest. India have not only managed to do that but also managed to do it fairly effortlessly.
Johannesburg and Trent Bridge stand as witnesses to India’s growth as a touring side. When Shastri quipped that Kohli’s India could be the “best travelling side in the world”, he wasn’t way off the mark. This side has left an indelible mark in India’s overseas Test history. The progress to a travelling side in the mould of the South Africans under Graeme Smith is not just quick, but scarily rapid.
As Cooper says at the end of his long monologue…..
……………….”We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we’ve barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.”