When we say cricket in India has evolved over the years so has the players and the audience.The first cricket clubs sprouted in the Colonial India.There were Indians who payed for the British.The game was for the elites. A person carrying a bat, gloves and pad would have been something like spotting a person with his golf club now. In a way of commemorating the pioneers we still run the domestic circuits in their name- Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy. So we know why 'Lagaan' struck the right chord with the Indians worldwide.
Though we acquired Test playing status, still as a British colony, India could boast of a formidable team only post Independence. Great exponents of spin, elegant stoke makers, real pace bowlers emerged every now and then like a shooting star. Individual brilliance was not enough. Soon, India learnt it needs to spreed its roots deep and wide to become competent. The fruits came much later in the 70's when the Gavaskars, Kapil Devs,Bishan Singhs and Prasannas stood together as a team, that India started meeting a lion in its den,winning Test Matches abroad.
When a triangular seriesthen still meant a test match series between 3 among a dozen of test playing nations which went on and on like a ship journey ODI took off right from the moment it was introduced at the Mecca of Cricket- Lords, England(60 overs a team). The reverberations showed in India. India had to adapt to the new format quickly and a new breed of athletes wombed. It was only after the team lead by Kapil dev lifted the world cup, cricket became a viable professional sport in the Asian subcontinent. The country absorbed all the inspiration it got from its cricketers as they were deprived of it by the leaders.Players like Azharudin, Ravi Shastri, Krish Srikanth who were graduates who gambled their jobs to become full time cricketers. The emotion shifted from becoming independent to becoming competent, in any career that they pursued.
The iron age of Indian cricket started when the likes of Sachin, Dravid, Kumble, Ganguly started hitting the international benchmarks. But still that chronic ailment of serpenting behind their heroes continued. Players saw a halo over their head. Beating any international team was a possibility with very low probability. Vaccine came in the form of Sourav Ganguly who had the guts to break free from the mold, though aware of his imperfections and cry out loud that " lets think that the Aussies are not Invincible". Under his tutelage, Indian cricket history saw a colossal of experimenting, team strategies, fitness standards which pushed the bars from being competent to becoming consistent.Cricket, beyond a profession and passion became a religion.
Sachin was the torchbearer, who kept spark alive , preserved it from the Kapil dev era. He was determined to keep running past world cups, captains and milestones to find the right person to take it forward. What he saw was a new phenomenon of Indian cricket. It was from the Mecca again. T20 emerged.Leading from the front or carrying the responsibility was shared among a bunch of pumped up youngsters to whom every minute they spent with Sachin on and off the field was equivalent of a time-travel. They revered him, played with him, dined and partied with him and a bit of the genius rubbed on to each one of them and it soaked in. India started performing consistently well and the next obvious step was to dominate. India won the first edition of T20 world cup and it was as dramatic as it could get. India vs Pak final. Super over was icing on the cake. It catapulted the captain cool image of MSD and lead the team, rather complemented the team in all the 3 formats of the game adeptly. The team under MSD was determined to give a fitting tribute to the Master and put its heart and soul in to it to win the 2011, ODI cup. India became jubilant and celebrated the day like patented the rights for all its inventions, the way it should have jumped on the cloud 9 when Chandaryan was successfully launched, like it has redeemed all the riches from the Kohinoor diamonds to that remained locked in the Swiss bank. Indians found something really to be proud of what they are and who they are .
Nature has its own way of reinventing itself. We mere mortals need not bother much in restoring its balance. The dynamics applies to cricket as well. Still if you sneak behind those rusty benches of the joggers park you ll hear how the cricket crazy grandpas discuss about Gundappa Viswanath and Suni Gavaskar and how their retirement earmarked the end of elegance and grace of test cricket. Employees of banks, railways or any other government undertaking has their own clubs and still play tournaments. Playing a 50 over or a 30 over game makes them feel they are still as active as in their teens. Every team has a left and right hand opening pair who visualize themselves as Sachin and Sourav.
With IPL and other kinds of improvisations which emulates the pattern in football or rugby has opened up a boulevard of avenues for the gen next.This is the Golden Era of cricket in India. The fame, money and a jackpot to make it to the national side has not only increased the bench strength of team India which has a wide pool to pick up from in the 3 formats of the game but also made sure that even after making it to the National side and winning international accolades one cannot take it for granted. For the onlookers it seems like party always and every cricket aspirant yearns to join the bandwagon. But in reality it is a musical chair. When the music stops, the person with a flop takes all the criticism the same way he takes all the accolades when the team wins. Yuvraj and Kohli stand testimony.
A weak link from the past has managed to propagate its way through and remain dormant most of the time but takes monstrous proportions every once in a while. It is the Indian pace bowling attack. All the way through Indian cricket has been about batsmen. Spinners , a string of medium pacers and handy part- timers who can roll their arms have managed to cover it up. But India's lack of a genuine pace bowler was exposed yet again yesterday which made the real difference between the two sides. Its because we have always been obsessed with the fame, stats and charm that is tied to a batsman. Its not something to be ashamed of or to crib about. As a nation, as cricket fans we have matured far beyond all that.All we have to do is dream of producing a pool of world class fast bowlers.