R Kaushik walks us through India's journey from being a mediocre Test team in the late 2000s to the dominant force they have become today. He explains the role of Anil Kumble and MS Dhoni in the change of mentality that has led to Kohli's India becoming the undisputed best Test team in the world.
“Only one team is playing in the spirit of the game.” Nine years on, these 11 words still resonate loud and clear. These were not the words of a sore loser. They weren’t part of a whingeing, excuse-seeking campaign. They weren’t uttered in a fit of pique, with simmering anger, or with scarcely concealed bitterness. But these 11 simple words elevated a champion cricketer to the status of a statesman, a true giant of the game to a masterful leader of men. Those words summed up the passage of play over the five days – gripping action at all times with both teams equally contributing, less than edifying behaviour from one of the protagonists, who took win-at-any-cost to a whole new level.
Sometimes, when you look back at the events of a tour that seemed endless but passed by in a flash – we reached Melbourne long before Christmas and only departed Brisbane in the second week of March – you wonder what if. What if Kumble had not been the captain? What if a less grounded, less articulate man had been at the helm? What if, caught up in a maelstrom of swirling emotion, he had allowed the occasion to get the better of him? What if …?
Dhoni, immense credit to him, picked up the lessons beautifully. In time to come, he was to establish himself as a statesman in his own right, doing his illustrious predecessors proud while setting an example for youngsters that was impossible not to want to emulate. He had the spirit, the aggression, the spunk and the courage of Kumble, but he also had a charisma that was entirely Dhoni – flowing mane at the start of his career to go with booming strokes and a rustic charm that not even a decade of international cricket has, thankfully, sucked away.
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