I remember having followed only two of India’s previous tours to Australia, and those were pretty poorly done too.
When India toured Australia in that 2004-ish period, I was in school, in my danger zone of my school life – 10th standard. So, naturally, cable television was off, and I had only DD for any news. All India Radio wouldn’t do commentary. So, I’d have to wait till the last five minutes of the news to hear about the score and maybe a couple of clips from the session. I would then devour into the morning newspaper and gobble up two pages full of reports and articles and opinion columns in The Hindu. That pic of Ajit Agarkar, celebrating during his 6-wicket spell, I remember appeared in the middle of the page, and the crease of newspaper’s fold made the photo look awkward. Nevertheless, Adelaide win was reported live on DD News, well celebrated. Steve Waugh’s final test was well appreciated, though it prevented us from the win.
Next time ’round, I was in college, into my 2nd year of engineering, when India went to Australia in 2007/08. It was during the vacation that the Boxing Day test happened, and for some reason, I had missed most of it, watched highlights and got updates on mobile phones from pals who were watching, though. Can only remember Zak’s ball to Ponting, hitting the top of off after the ball from around the wicket seamed away just enough to tease Ponting’s bat’s edge to shame. I was in college for the Sydney test. Friends from around the country had just returned for the new semester. We had a lot of people to blame during the course of the match. You could’ve learnt 20 different swears in 15 languages had you been in that room I was watching the Sydney test. And the tension grew during the final session. My friend sitting next to me said, India playing with 3 wickets to protect, “Machhaan, if a wicket falls now, it will be very exciting!” I could’ve handled one wicket falling, but three was too large an amplification of the jinx. The Perth test was wonderful! Ishant’s my favourite bowler. He, like me is tall. I, like him, am a fast bowler. We both like unkempt long hair. It was a treat watching him bowl at Perth. Zipping the ball in and out. Owning Ponting. The Perth test was the only thing that made me voluntarily bunk a class in college. And the reward was Ishant’s brilliant 10 over spell ending with Ponting’s wicket. It was always coming. A power cut meant we couldn’t watch the end, and we only heard from our friends in other places when India wrapped up Australia’s irritating tail. Another anecdote from that series – Zak stopping a steaming Tait in his delivery stride to waste time and prevent another over at the end of day. That was simply the height of irritation for Tait.
And in less than a day’s time, India and Australia lock horns at Melbourne for the customary Boxing Day test to start the Border Gavaskar series. I have no clue what half the Australian team is. So many new names. My own lifestyle has changed drastically from 5-hours-a-day-class routine to 11-hours-a-day office routine. I have missed so much cricket in the last 4 months that I continue to have the problem in telling Umesh Yadav from Varun Aaron. India failed miserably in England, made up a bit against the West Indies at home. I learn that Australia have been average at best in their last two series ( SA, NZ). So, per me, what should’ve been a marquee series is just another series. A lot of name and fame and history and pride attached to it, but much of a fight in store. There might be some good tests, yes. But if we are calling the recent Australian tests are good ones, in which mediocre performances led to gripping results, that wouldn’t be good on an absolute scale in comparison to what we’ve had in previous tours.
Australian team has been getting a facelift every other series. Bowlers in both teams are getting injured on day-to-day basis. Ponting, Sachin, Dravid, Laxman are all having their last meet, I’d guess. One or more may be having their last series too. I’ve stayed away from most analysis, match-ups, talks, build-ups et all. I don’t want to expect anything now, for, reality is far from my expectations nowadays. This will like the Australian tours before 2003-04, when as a kid I’d sit with my dad on wintry mornings, and just watch the players in white, on the green fields, the red ball chasing away seagulls, and the sweet sound of bat on ball with the voice of Richie Benaud on the mic. I remember nothing from those tours, honestly.
As 26th of December creeps up, I’ve no idea if I’d be locked between priorities. NBA starts at the same time. A lot of switching between channels, or watching on different screens will or might happen, depending upon my laziness.
Here’s hoping this tour is better than what it seems to be.