If Rahul Dravid were to hold a corporate job, he would be the guy who muttered under his breath when the boss ticked him off and went back to perfect his presentation until his boss could find no fault. Virat Kohli will probably ask his boss to fuck off, turn entrepreneur and spend the rest of his life rubbing it in to his nemesis(es). For a country galloping down the world stage at break neck speed, the new look lineup reflects the restlessness urgency and live in the moment ethos, unlike the previous generation who were content to keep an arm’s distance between their laurels and flamboyance.
The winds of change are blowing across India’s unofficial national game, religion and pastime. Unlike its over-the-top cinema or votebank politics, cricket in India is a product of its era. Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja and Shikhar Dhawan bring to bear a new generation’s modus operandi – play hard, party hard, no apologies; thank you very much. In the 90s, a certain Vinod Kambli crashed onto the world stage and burned out before the turn of the decade. Before he bartered his supreme talents for his demons, he was considered an eyesore, too flashy for the image of Indian cricket. Which brings to bear an afterthought – would any of the current bunch have met the same fate had they been born in another generation? An incident from the past illustrates how different generations played the game. Javagal Srinath strikes Ricky Ponting on the helmet with an uncharacteristic bouncer. A vegetarian from the royal city of Mysore, Srinath was your atypical pace bowler, someone who apologized after hitting the batsman’s helmet instead of taking a leaf out of Glen Mcgrath’s school of sportsmanship and glaring. He was met by an angry rebuttal and asked to take his mark again. It’s a tough ask to expect anyone from the current side to be riled for offering an apology and stay subdued.
The 199os saw the tables turn in cricket’s world order. Led by a wily Jagmohan Dalmiya, India transformed into a super power in cricket administration. ODI’s became the darling of the crowds and television ratings fell truly, madly and deeply in love with them. Sachin Tendulkar established himself as god and cricket transformed from a game to a religion. The 2000s saw Sourav Ganguly shake Indian cricket off its over modest approach but that generation steered clear of any garish displays of genius and victory. Ganguly’s shirtless exult in the Natwest trophy finals was one of the few aberrations in a side not given to exuberance.
New India isn’t synonymous with waiting, isn’t shy of flaunting the latest gadgets and isn’t unsure of its place in the world. The new look team is an extension of this, inadvertently giving a voice to a whole new generation. Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Rahul, Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Javagal Srinath weren’t products of the t20 school of thought. Their first love always remained test cricket and success in that format was the badge of honour they wore on their sleeves. The current generation entered the game in vastly different circumstances. They have tasted early success, found riches and are not bound by the shackles of the past or the future. It isn’t as if respect, grit and fortitude have been forsaken in the journey to the top, just that the expressions of victory and talent are far more forthcoming.
The new look Indian team is standing on the shoulders of giants but is capable and confident of building edifices of its own. In that sense, it speaks the language of new India.