Tests got their mojo back: In the absence of India-Pakistan cricket, contests with Australia have acquired dramatic importance

It’s been a week since India beat Australia in the final Test at Dharamshala but the excitement still lingers. I’ve been jogging my memory ceaselessly and can’t think of many series as competitive and pulsating, climaxing in the most enthralling Indian season ever.

With 10 wins from 13 Tests (and only one defeat) against four different opponents, this has easily been India’s best performance at home. Impressive as this seems, it is the sheer quality of cricket played by Virat Kohli and Co that was riveting.

True, playing on home pitches is an advantage. But this can easily be squandered by complacency, cockiness or – especially in a long season – dwindling consistency. There is also the flip side to playing at home, often disregarded, which is the pressure of expectation. Former Australia captain Steve Waugh said somewhere recently that he always preferred overseas tours as the distractions were far lesser. Where the Indian team is concerned, pressure from fans is manifold, given the manic following for cricket.

In any case, home support and friendly pitches are no guarantee to success: In the last full home season in 2012-13, for instance, England won 2-1 after losing the first Test. Lose focus, lose series.

There were also other challenges confronting the Indian team. For instance, the entire season was played against the backdrop of the turmoil in BCCI vis-à-vis the Justice Lodha panel recommendations. To believe that players are inured from fractious off-field developments is a one-dimensional view of how sport is played. They do feel the tugs and pulls of controversies. The effort to blank such things from the mind can be daunting.

Through all this, India played with admirable focus. That talent in Indian cricket is deep and widespread – despite misgivings about how the sport is administered in the country – was evident from how even newbies and rookies rose to the occasion.

Collectively, this effort played out a superb script as the season wore on. The team enhanced its lead at the top of the ICC rankings in great style, and in the process gave Test cricket in India the kiss of life.

The challenge of winning overseas looms now, as captain Virat Kohli admitted. India’s record in away Tests over the last decade-odd is dismal but this season gave hope that things might be changing.

Players like KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh Yadav appear to have come of age in the five-day format. Yadav’s success in particular is most encouraging as India have lacked a wicket-taking fast bowler since Zaheer Khan’s heydays. Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and a fully fit Mohammed Shami make a daunting pace quartet. It is reasonable to believe too that Ashwin and Jadeja have gained from experience and will be more effective overseas now.

Essentially, though, it is about the changed mindset of players. There is a chutzpah, positivity and optimism that separate this team from any in the past. This seems derived from the personality of the captain. Kohli’s energy, passion and desire to win is infectious. He has been able to instil intensity of performance, sustained aggression and an unrelenting quest for success which works even in his absence as evidenced.

This captured the imagination of cricket fans even as opponents were vanquished. Crowds for all 13 Tests, if not quite like in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, were huge by contemporary standards. Dwindling spectatorship for Tests in recent years in India was contrasted by the phenomenal success of the Indian Premier League in the last decade. This season showed that the five-day format’s appeal is still intact.

The charm of the five-day format remains unparalleled when teams play skilfully, hard and uncompromisingly as witnessed in the series against Australia, without doubt the high point of the season.

The obvious comparison is with the 2001 series, also against Australia. India had come from behind then too to win the rubber, immortalised by the magical turnaround effected by VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh in the second Test in Kolkata. The calibre of the Australian side in 2001 was much higher of course. The Aussies were world champions then and boasted several stellar players. Steve Smith, on the other hand, led a young team with a wobbly track record and must be lauded for running India so close.

In the absence of India-Pakistan cricket ties, India’s contests with Australia have acquired an importance that is invaluable for the game, and a competitive edge that provokes bitter, high-strung contests. Inevitably, this will throw up volatile situations every now and then. But if these are managed competently by authority and players themselves, the problem can easily be defused without compromising on the intensity of cricket played.

I believe ICC match referee Chris Broad erred in not even reprimanding Smith for his self-confessed ‘brain fade’ moment in the second Test. This stoked acrimony between the two teams, fuelled further by some ill-conceived remarks from Cricket Australia and BCCI.

Happily, it all ended well. Smith was contrite in his post-series statements, accepting that he had let emotions ‘slip’ a bit in the series. Kohli, after impetuously ‘unfriending’ the Aussies, clarified that this was not directed against them all, only ‘one or two’.

The ethos of competitive sport is one-upmanship, no quarter given or asked. But this should not extend to bitter aftertaste. Grace in defeat and magnanimity in victory may be old world virtues but enhance sport, as they do life.
Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports

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Cricket: India-Pakistan clash on cards as BCCI writes to Home Ministry [Video]

The much awaited battle between arch rivals India and Pakistan does not seem to be far away as the BCCI has taken a positive move towards it.
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Source: https://in.news.yahoo.com/cricket-india-pakistan-clash-cards-135700390.html

India-Pakistan series not in current scenario: Home Ministry

BCCI had approached the Home Ministry, seeking government permission. (Source: File) BCCI had approached the Home Ministry, seeking government permission. (Source: File)

In response to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) asking the home ministry if they India could play cricket with Pakistan later in the year, the minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir has made it clear that cricket ties with the neighbouring country are not likely to resume any time soon. Ahir told reporters outside the Parliament on Wednesday that, “in the current circumstances cricket between India and Pakistan is not possible”. The Indian board has to complete their obligations under the Future Tours & Programme (FTP) agreement which was inked in 2014. As per FTP agreements, November was reserved for an India-Pakistan series.

“It’s procedure which the board has to follow. If we want to play Pakistan we can’t get up one day and say, we will be playing them. We need the government’s clearance way in advance so that we can plan it out,” informed a BCCI official. The FTP agreements clearly state that all fixtures between the two countries are subject to clearances from the respective governments. The BCCI official added that if the government doesn’t give permissions then at least they could convey to the Pakistan Cricket Board that they had tried fulfilling the FTP agreement but the board’s hands were tied until the government gave the go-ahead.

When asked about the BCCI considering Dubai as a venue, a BCCI official said. “If the government gives the green signal then the BCCI will decide where to play. If there is no approval from the government then we can invite other countries to play in that particular window. That is why the board had sent a letter to the ministry to clear their stand with regards to playing Pakistan.” Earlier, former board president Shashank Manohar wanted to host Pakistan for a short series in 2016 but did not get government clearance owing to tensions between the two countries and the subsequent terror attacks on Indian soil. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s cricketers, past and present, have told the PCB not to expect the BCCI to schedule any bilateral series with the country in the near future.

Told about reports from across the border that the BCCI had written to India’s external affairs ministry for clearance to play against Pakistan this November, former captain Javed Miandad was reported to have burst out laughing. “They just want to play around with us as always. They are least interested in playing us in a bilateral series,” Miandad said. He noted that in the last few years, Pakistan had made all efforts to get India to resume playing bilateral series, but with no success. “They make one excuse or the other. This latest sweet trap is perhaps to convince Pakistani officials to not bring up the issue of bilateral series with India at the ICC meeting next month,” he said.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has said it would discuss the issue with the ICC. Pakistan’s Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq said it was good news if India were seriously pursuing the option of playing with Pakistan. “I don’t know what is happening, apart from what comes in the media, but if they want to resume bilateral series this year it would be a big boost for both Pakistan and Indian cricket and fans,” Misbah said. PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan, reacting to media reports, said that so far the BCCI had not spoken to him about playing in a possible series in November. “They (the BCCI) have not said anything officially to us so far, so we are just going by the media reports. But if it is correct then we will also have to get clearance from our government,” Khan said.

Pakistan’s former captain Rashid Latif said the PCB should take the Indian board seriously only when it confirms in writing that it has received clearance from its government. “Until then the PCB should pursue its case in the ICC and use all legal means to get compensation from India for the number of times they have refused to play us at neutral venues,” Latif said.

(With PTI inputs)

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Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/india-pak-ties-not-in-current-scenario-ministry-4591836/