On this very day, eight years ago, the man who would lead Indian cricket into the big, bad world of 21st century cricket and become their most successful leader ever, took over as captain of India.
So perhaps it was only fitting that the man who many already believe will better Sourav Ganguly’s record and lead India into a new era of world domination, handed the reins to Ganguly one last time, during the final rites of the Nagpur Test.
It was a gracious gesture by M.S. Dhoni, one that along with his asking the just-retired Anil Kumble to lift the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, was a reflection of many things: An acknowledgement of the men who led India in some unforgettable victories, especially against Australia, a sign of the respect and affection he and the team hold them in, an awareness of the importance of symbolism in sport and finally, an understanding of the legacy he takes on.
This, on Monday, was an incredibly poignant moment, but then this series in which India dominated Australia like no team has in the recent past, has been a series of bittersweet moments. Which ones do we point to?
Ganguly’s defiant 85 and that golden duck in his last game? Kumble’s struggle at Kotla, the ground that gave him his place in history and where he bid adieu? Ishant’s man of the series award, and the nervous 20-year-old’s acknowledgment of his seniors? Tendulkar’s vital, scratchy century in this Test or Laxman’s special 200 in the last?
Gambhir’s assured double ton that many predict will be the first of more, or his elbowing of Watson, that others believe is symbolic of a changing India? Dhoni’s captaincy and winners-take-all tactics, Sehwag’s flashes of brilliance with bat and ball or Zaheer and Harbhajan sharing the responsibility of leading the attack steadfastly?
The hope with which we watched Amit Mishra thinking that he has what it takes, or the stunned silence with which we saw Rahul Dravid, the architect of most of India’s most famous triumphs, struggle to come to terms with disaster?
Whatever we look back at, whatever our individual memories, there is no doubt that at 2.10 pm on Monday, history was made and Test cricket might have changed forever.
What of the Aussies, the current world champions? They’ve definitely taken a battering, and though they have a big
year of Test cricket ahead and with it, a chance at redemption, Nagpur has probably signalled the end of Australia as we knew it. While it is early days yet, if Dhoni can inspire his team to keep that bar raised, the world lies ahead.