No Laxman. No Gambhir. Sehwag gone early with 200-odd to get in two and a half sessions on the final day of a series deciding Test. And where were they playing — Bangalore, where no team had ever successfully chased over 195 and, where India hadn’t won a Test since October 1995.
If someone had stated before this utterly fabulous Wednesday that two young Indians, one with less than 10 Tests under his belt and the other a debutant standing in for Laxman, would, under these circumstances, set up a rollicking chase that mocked at a slippery target, he or she would have been introduced to a breathalyzer — at the very least.
So when Murali Vijay, 26, and Cheteshwar Pujara, 22, did exactly that, you had to laugh, gleefully — after all, who doesn’t want to watch while serious damage is being done to the Australian cricketing psyche?
It was really stirring stuff. There is a polished assurance to Young India that gives us, the cricketing faithful, a continuing sense of accomplishment. Dhoni’s merry men stride forward without even the occasional glance back, secure in their own prowess and ability to conquer the world.
The baggage of nightmare overseas tours does not haunt these men; after all, they have come of age on the back of a golden decade for Indian cricket — one where the Ganguly-led pantheon of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble and Sehwag fought India’s demons and more often than not, won in rousing fashion.
Where India have been very lucky is in the fact that at no stage have they been without some combination of these men to provide the backbone of every Indian side — unlike Australia, who lost McGrath and Warne, Langer, Hayden and Gilchrist in almost startlingly quick succession. For some time now, there has been a vulnerability to Ponting’s Australians, chinks that other sides, even those not No. 1 in the rankings, are quick to expose.
It was fitting in a sense that Dravid and Tendulkar were at the crease to finish up what Vijay and Pujara had begun so well, the old meshing seamlessly with the new, each delighting in the others’ achievements.
That sense of harmony, a bonding that holds despite reported individual differences in the side, is what makes this Indian team stand out, again and again, at home and away.
It is difficult to see New Zealand, struggling in the one-day series against Bangladesh at the moment, pose a serious challenge to India in the three Tests next month. The real test should be after that, in South Africa, in many ways for India, the final frontier.