Like me, if you were caught between taking the mandatory Sunday afternoon nap and watching the test series, you will be forgiven. Indian cricket hasn’t given us much to cheer over the last two years. The 4-0 whitewashes in England and Australia, followed by a revenge series turned self-destructive series vs England at home had all but laid siege to the hopes and expectations. Whenever the Indian test fan has altered sleep patterns, kept live scores and live tv on during office hours, fingers precariously placed on the alt-tab buttons, the efforts have been met been met with unending disappointment.
We are still getting used to a batting line-up bereft of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman and have grudgingly accepted that this maybe the last time Sachin Tendulkar plays a home series. MS Dhoni’s one day prowess in unquestioned but his test credentials have always been like a student constantly looking for grace marks to make the passing grade. The man under whose stewardship the team rose to no.1 in the test rankings also oversaw the team plummeting from its once dizzying heights.
In the recent past, whenever you dozed off, stepped out for a coffee break, or were drawn into the demands of a day job that helped pay the bills, you returned to see another wicket fall, another collapse, another loss and another heartbreak. But this afternoon was different.
Each time you returned to the game, the left side of the scoreboard was steadily increasing while the right side remained unaffected. You watched Dhoni lift his bat after his century and then sat down for lunch with the family, the tv turned off. You returned to the match to see him near his 150. The weight of your eye lids too much to bear, you dozed off on the chair and woke up just in time to see him reach a double hundred. And like most fans, you rubbed your eyes and pinched yourself.
It was an innings from the Dhoni school of thought – brutal, brisk and a knack for appearing at right place at the right time. Back in 2001, the Indian team, led by a maverick captain, sought to quell the march of the invincibles, and won.The similarities between the Kolkata 2001 and Chennai 2013 are uncanny. In both matches, a double century turned things around. Back then, Harbhajan took 13 wickets and now, Ashwin reaped a 10 wicket haul. Laxman scored 282, Dhoni 224, 57 runs lesser, but priceless nonetheless. The circumstances weren’t as demanding as Kolkata, but MS Dhoni’s place in the test arena has had more questions than answers.
Many believe Laxman’s 281 set the tone for Indian cricket’s ascension in the test arena. It came when the team was crawling out of the muck of the match fixing scandal and since 2011, Indian cricket has found itself in the muck in the test arena. Whether the Chennai victory will be the voice of a new generation of cricketer’s is anyone’s guess.
And much like Andy Dufresne did in the Shawshank Resdemption, we hope this is the moment when we’re crawling out of the s**t, and coming out better on the other side.