Recent test matches in South Africa and Australia produced wonderful cricket but the two games highlighted two contradictory trends. The Jo’burg match showed that cricket is uncertain; one never knows what will happen and how the next ball will play out. The Perth match, in sharp contrast, proved that class will tell, and a superior team and talented players will prevail regardless of conditions.
Which means Ponting will make runs and Shane Warne will take wickets no matter whether they are playing in Melbourne or Mumbai. Likewise, nothing can stop Murali - not batsmen, not umpires. He has, quite literally, the hand of God with him.
We know cricket defies prediction, soon as any expert steps out to make a bold strike, events prove him wrong. The game is such one must learn to be humble, keep a straight bat and shoulder arms rather than look into the future.
Certainly no gyani could have seen the tide turning for India. The team defied odds, surprised itself and shocked its supporters by winning the Test handsomely when, before the game, there was scant reason for any optimism.
At that point, after the one-day series rout, the team was battered and bruised, the form of key players was dismal and selection decisions were close to being bizarre.
Still, India won, the victory made memorable as it was crafted by old hands and fresh blood. The main architects were all yesterday’s rejects — seniors returning from the wilderness and a young Sreesanth not considered good enough for the Champion’s Trophy only a month back.
This triumph will persuade people who thought Indian cricket was in the ICU to understand there is a lot of spirit and plenty of life left in it. Also, those who claimed the coach was running away with Indian cricket will now realise the captain calls the shots. Greg Chappell can breathe a bit easy but he stands humbled, his size diminished even as Rahul Dravid is suddenly taller, and more powerful.
While India supports the theory that cricket is uncertain and unpredictable, Australia trashes this view by their consistent, ruthless superiority. India lurches wildly from one extreme to the other, Australia remains rock solid crushing opposition without being stretched.
The questions raised by this are: What makes a battered Indian side bounce back? What special jadoo do the Aussies possess that they nearly eliminate chance from cricket and regularly impose their will on the run of play? I don’t think logical answers exist — if they did, then everyone would zerox the formula.
Anyway, win or lose, this is an occasion to celebrate the magic of cricket, but with balance and maturity. Cricket can put a smile on Sreesanth’s young face, it can also play cruel jokes and, who knows, the youngster could go wicketless for a hundred in the next match.
Strange things have happened on a cricket field, form arrives and departs in mysterious ways and this annoying uncertainty is cricket’s glory. Kaif, just back from South Africa, scored two zeroes against Haryana this week in a Ranji game!