Monday, September 19, 2011

A Tour from Hell

21st July 2011the hype was amazing, it seemed that all roads leading towards only one destination, a place called Lord’s in the beautiful city of London, two top teams were getting ready to take on each other for a battle, battle on the cricketing field, the battle which was supposed to be bigger than the Ashes, bigger than India-Pakistan series. 2000th Test, Sachin's 100th Hundred etc. etc. The build-up to this high profile Test series was unprecedented, a larger than life kind of series was about to start.

What if their dynamic opener Virendra Sehwag was not in the team? What if Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar were not around for a while? The World No. 1 Test team was ready to take on the strongest English team ever.
Everyone was expecting a neck and neck battle, India started off well, Zaheer dismissed both the left-handed openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss cheaply. Everything was going along nicely but then something happened which none of us expected, Zaheer felt some pain and left the field, it was a hamstring strain, Indian team was left with only 3 bowlers. It was just a beginning of one horrendous tour. A tour full of injuries, a tour full of selection blunders, a tour full of controversies, a tour from hell.

With every passing match Indian injury list kept on increasing. Gambhir, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Praveen, Ishant almost everyone got injured during the Test series. It affected their performance big time, Zaheer's and Gambhir's injuries proved most damaging for Team India. On one hand their most experienced bowler was out and on other hand their only regular opener was struggling.

Gambhir's injury forced team management to make Dravid a temporary opener though he didn't like this job in past but they had no other option. Pushing Rahul Dravid up meant a change in batting order, Laxman's place was now No.3. As we know an unsettled batting line-up is never good, it cost the team dearly. Soon, India were 2-0 down. 

3rd August 2011, Virendra Sehwag joined team India, he was still recovering from a shoulder surgery and had some hearing problem, it was a big risk to play him but India needed a win badly. Like we look at God during crisis, we were looking at him. Every single Indian fan was waiting for a miracle.

Then came an anti-climax moment, Virendra Sehwag got King pair in his comeback Test at Birmingham. India found themselves 3-0 down, lost the series, lost No.1 ranking.

We the Indian fans were feeling humiliated but still we were waiting for a win in the last Test. Die-hard fans followed every ball, every over, every session in search of a win but story didn't change. Gambhir got concussion, blurred vision, India lost the series 4-0. First time in their recent history they failed to win a single Test in a series.

The series also showed the ugly side of cricket, whether it was Ian Bell’s run out incident at Trent Bridge Test or ex-English cricketers’ continuous comments on Indian players, especially Michael Vaughan’s statement on Social Networking site Twitter sparked a big controversy where he accused VVS Laxman of using Vaseline on his bat when Hot-spot failed to find an edge. DRS/Hot-spot came under severe scrutiny and was the favourite topic of discussion during the series.

One man stood tall amidst all this annihilation, the man is none other than Rahul Dravid. With 3 Hundreds in the 4-match Test series, he was the only saving face for Indian team. It also earned him a place in the Limited overs format. Since he didn’t play in ODI’s for 2 years, he was as surprised as we were on his selection. Soon, he announced his retirement from ODI’s and T20’s after the England tour. As Rahul Dravid was getting ready for his Farewell series, we were expecting a better show from young Indian players, we were confident of a comeback in Limited-over format.

31st August 2011, despite of injuries, our team looked good on paper as openers were taking guard in the T20 game. As they say in Hindi "Keechad Mein Hi Kamal Khilta Hai" (Lotus rises in muddy water), a Lotus, a future star arrived, Ajinkya Rahane impressed everyone with his elegant stroke-play, his debut knock of  61 from 37 balls was more than enough to speak about his talent, his knock almost made us forget the Test series debacle for a while. India lost the game despite of his heroic, still the search for their first win didn’t end.

3rd September 2011, the World Champions were ready to take on the English team in ODI’s but the injuries didn’t leave Team India here too.  Sachin was ruled out of the series due to injury while Rohit got injured during batting in the 1st ODI. Rahane, Parthiv, Dhoni and some others batted well in the 5-match ODI series but despite of it, Indian team failed to win a single match courtesy some bad bowling, some rotten luck, some rain and crazy D/L method. 3 Loses, 1 Tie and 1 Draw, all the 5 matches were affected by the rain which kept on reducing India’s chances of a win as if Gods in Heaven fixed the rain with English cricket team, everything looked like a conspiracy. First time in recent memories Indian cricket team coming back home empty handed from a foreign tour.

Don’t know about others but I am still with my team, this team has given me many reasons to smile and made me feel proud on several occasions. This is just a bad time and will pass soon. Dear Team India, win or lose, I will always stand by you!

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