It was great fun to celebrate Farokh Engineer’s 80th birthday at the Della Adventure and Training Academy (DATA) in Lonavala. Jimmy Mistry, the young and energetic owner of the adventure resorts, has taken a terrific initiative in starting this academy, which is based on military theme and teaches civilians about counter terrorism, survival techniques and jungle survival. The venue was apt as Farokh was a totally adventurous cricketer and is still an adventurous soul. Driving to the academy from the sylvan surroundings of the resort was a bone-jarring experience, but absolutely worth it as one got to meet not just Farokh and other guests, but some of the men who guard our borders and allow us to sleep peacefully in our homes.
Playing for passion
Farokh belonged to that era in Indian cricket when there was simply no money in the game and the players played for the love of the game and the honour to represent their country. That decade of the 1960s is, in my humble view, the most glamorous one in Indian cricket history. Never before or after have so many good-looking men pulled on the India cap. Apart from Farokh there were ‘Tiger’ Pataudi, Salim Durrani, Hanumant Singh, Abbas Ali Baig, Chandu Borde, Budhi Kunderan, Nari Contractor and of course my hero, M. L. Jaisimha. They had the ladies swooning and making a beeline for them. Incidentally I’m writing this on Jai’s birth anniversary and I’m glad to know his biography ‘My Way’ is now available online too. Today it is the IPL riches that draw most youngsters towards the game, but for us, budding teenage schoolboy cricketers, it was the stories of these hunks dating film stars and leggy models that was the extra incentive apart from the India cap of course.
A few years back, I had said that Virat Kohli will bring a more dashing edge to the captaincy like Tiger Pataudi did in the 1960s. At that time it was not known that he was dating a film star like Tiger did and subsequently married, but it was simply the way he carried himself on the field that reminded one of Tiger. Under Tiger’s leadership Indian cricket changed from being participants to playing for a win. To be fair that change had already started under Contractor’s captaincy for there was no way the tremendously gutsy Parsee was going to take a backward step on and off the field.
Desire to win
Under Kohli the desire to win has increased manifold and he is blessed with a team that is capable of delivering and more importantly bowlers who can take 20 wickets in all kinds of conditions all over the world. That is something that previous Indian skippers did not have and so the record away from the sub-continent has not been that good. Kohli’s team played some outstanding cricket to win the One-day series and the T20 series, totally overwhelming the hosts, who admittedly were without their top experienced players through injury for most of the limited-over games.
Give time to acclimatise
The point to be noted is that India's performance started to get even better after the first fortnight and after that they were virtually unstoppable. Even on a tough pitch at the Wanderers, Johannesburg the Indians held their own and won convincingly in the third and final Test match. If anything, it re-emphasises — if there is any more need to do so — that India, historically slow starters overseas, need to spend at least a fortnight in that country before they start playing their best cricket.
Of course it wasn’t the team’s fault that they were unable to do so as they had to play a Test and limited-over series against Sri Lanka at home before emplaning for South Africa. They will get more than a month in UK as they play One-dayers against Ireland and England before taking on the latter in a five-Test series.
Make no mistake it is their performance in the Test series that will define their tour. Winning limited-over series is terrific, but when it comes to judging teams it is their performance in Test cricket that is considered. Limited-over results do matter but only in world events.
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