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Champs no more, but they raised the bar

I" ve told that it's every Indian cricket lover's delight to see Australia lose. But then again, every cricketing nation's dream is to do what Australia have done i.e., dominate the world for over a decade while constantly upping the bar, writes Aakash Chopra.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2008 00:18 IST

I" ve told that it's every Indian cricket lover's delight to see Australia lose. But then again, every cricketing nation's dream is to do what Australia have done i.e., dominate the world for over a decade while constantly upping the bar.

For a long time, they weren't even competing against anyone else — no other team was good enough to challenge their supremacy. Instead, they obsessed with setting themselves goals, whether it was winning a record number of Tests in a row or lifting the World Cup without losing a game.

Even with my limited experience at the highest level, I can assure you that it takes a lot to win a single Test, leave alone win 16 in a row over different continents and against different oppositions. But the Aussies managed what was a near impossible ask with ease, even attaining an aura of invincibility for a while. So now we come to what it takes to usurp a champion. Logically, two things: Skill and belief. And the fascinating part is that you don't necessarily have to beat a champion yourself, even the sight of him beaten can spur you on. Remember the 4-minute-mile barrier? The landmark wasn't achieved for decades but once Sir Roger Bannister made that seemingly impossible run, people kept breaking it almost every month. Now that the Australian stronghold has been breached, teams are sensing the change in tide. The future holds boundless possibilities.

But at this moment, while it must be wonderful to be South African, how can I not feel for this Australian team? We lesser mortals are horribly familiar with that sinking feeling: when nothing you do is right and no matter how hard you try it's just not good enough.

At a very different level, our last domestic season taught me that. I played for four teams (India-A, Delhi, Rest of India and North Zone) and always ended up on the winning side. Whenever we needed a wicket, a partnership, an outstanding fielding effort or even an umpiring decision went our way. This went on for nearly seven months till the Deodhar and disaster coincided. We would push ourselves during training; give each other pep talks, just to remind ourselves that we were good enough. Nothing worked. This Australian team, I suspect, feels the same.

Let's cut them some slack. Australia mastered the delicate art of staying at the top for as long as possible. They established a new world order and whatever the rest of us do in future will revolve around an attempt to emulate their imperious success. So instead of deriving sadistic pleasure from Australia's defeats, perhaps we should enjoy what will hopefully be a wonderful ride to the top.

(The author has played 10 Tests for India and is currently captain of the Delhi Ranji Trophy team. His debut book, Beyond the Blues, will be in stores on January 8).