Cricket, at its most elemental, is the art of negotiating. Negotiating the opposition’s weaponry, negotiating disappointments, negotiating criticisms, negotiating reputations and, above all, negotiating fate. At the infamous hunting grounds of the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) in Perth, Team India negotiated all the sharp turns and pirouetting corners to strike up one of the finest victories in the game on Saturday. After the crushing hammer blow in Melbourne and the fog-filled defeat in Sydney and the smog that followed, Anil Kumble and his boys had two options: to get subsumed by what had already taken place, or play superlative cricket. India chose the latter and showed why, just when the world was once again ready to give up on the most popular cricket team in the world, they can also be one of the best.
It was evident right from the first day that India’s batsmen had something to prove. But the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. More than the Aussie pace machine failing to make the expected sacrificial offerings to whichever deity that makes them world champions at the holy altar of WACA, the Indian batting battalion somehow stood up to the pace and bounce of Perth with old hands Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar delivering even as the rest of the line-up wobbled. But it was the Australian innings that showed how the mixed bag arsenal of Rudra Pratap Singh, Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan and the ever-dependable Kumble were the newly-favoured devotees of Lord Waca. What followed was about clenching one’s jaws so that the prey wouldn’t slip away. A VVS Laxman-led batting display in the second innings saw the game seemingly out of Australia’s reach.
But with India, as well as with Australia, it’s never out of reach until it’s over. It took some inspiring leadership and inspired bowling — and a reversal of fortune that claimed past collaborator of dodgy umpiring decisions Andrew Symonds as a victim this time — to wrap things up. India, as in 2001 in Kolkata, stopped Australia’s record-breaking straight 17 Test wins. They also demolished the myth of Perth. The team also reminded us what fun undiluted cricket can be — especially after beating the world’s toughest team in their own sanctum sanctorum.