OfficiallyIndia is still the No. 1 ranked Test team but it would be hard to find a more beleaguered No.1 anywhere else. One look at the injuries, incidents and ignominious defeats and you’d think an ill-wind is blowing India’s aura away. Predictably, and ever so perversely, M S Dhoni is being singled out as the fall guy. UndeniablyIndia find themselves cornered, and that is the perfect place to find that most stirring narrative device in all of sport – the comeback.
After losing the Sydney Test in 2008 under acrimonious circumstances, the team wore a similar outlook and a certain Virender Sehwag was recalled into the team for the Test match at Perth– a virtual fortress where the Aussies had hardly conceded any quarter over the years. A fast pitch, a down on its morale team and a hungry Australian squad ready to clinch the series were the perfect recipe for cookingIndia’s goose but you know what transpired next. In a riveting contest India outplayed Australia staging a comeback for the ages, one that set India on their current trajectory andAustralia on theirs. Until now.
India’s reverses in the first two Tests can be blamed on a plethora of factors both controllable and uncontrollable but the most crucial ingredient that seems missing is intent. In that Perth Test a gingerly Sehwag making his comeback, scored only 29 runs in the first innings and 43 in the second – statistically an unremarkable performance. But what was remarkable was the intent of Sehwag to grind and then attack the Australians that no doubt unsettled the bowlers a bit. The 57 run opening stand with Wasim Jaffer in that match set the tone for the rest of the team to find their bearings and suddenly there were heroes galore – Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Irfan Pathan, Ishant and R P Singh – who combined to snap Australia’s 16 game winning streak.
The odds were stacked heavily against India then as they are now. And if Dhoni wants to orchestrate a comeback, it will have less to do with the talent at his disposal and more with the intent. ESPNCricinfo’s profile of Sehwag says that he plays with “minimal footwork but maximum intent”. And that’s exactly what the Indian team needs right now. Well, not the minimal footwork bit; that could be fatal in English conditions. Oh, did I mention – Sehwag is making a comeback of sorts again. At Edgbaston. In the Third Test. Let the comeback commence…