India celebrated its 75th Independence Day this month. The merrymaking coincided with the arrival of the Olympians from Tokyo. India won seven medals, including one gold: its best show in the history of the global sporting event. Amid the lights and sounds, the cricket team won a Test match at Lord’s to go 1-0 up in the five-match series.
People often ask about the new train of thought called new India. What is it? Who are these new Indians? The eventful second week of August that ended with sporting glories across the world perhaps is the answer. The new breed of Indians wants to win.
In the 1990s, India had a solitary medal in the Olympics, Leander Paes winning the bronze in tennis men's singles in Atlanta 1996. The numbers have increased with time.
And in those days, most Indian cricketers took the verbal blows on their chin and moved on without saying a word. That's why the Venkatesh Prasad-Aamer Sohail spat in the World Cup 1996 game is memorable. It was a rare spectacle of an Indian answering back with action and gestures.
Cricketers have been chatting since the inception of the game. The stump mics can be blamed for privacy infringement. The technology ensured they turned those conversations into entertainment for the television audience. You start judging players based on the words the stump mics bring to you. It does not matter if it provides a slice of the conversation or the full audio tape.
Sledging in a high-profile Test series is bound to raise eyebrows, but it is not a new phenomenon. How do you control your mind in a highly competitive environment with three fast bowlers at their prime in your ranks? Psychologists have reiterated that aggression is indispensable in sports.
South Africa quick Dale Steyn looks menacing when he runs in. So did Mitchell Johnson, the Australian pace great. And it is fair to say that the quality Indian pace attack has added a lot of firepower to Team India, and the captain, Virat Kohli, is echoing the belligerence.
Jasprit Bumrah's 10-ball over, packed with short stuff, to England No. 11 batsman James Anderson initiated the flying tempers. While batting, the Indian pacer received similar treatment from Mark Wood. And finally, Kohli's choice of words against Anderson made it worse.
Former players Glenn McGrath and Steve Waugh, who were part of the golden generation of Australia that ruthlessly diminished their opponents, have owed their success to the strength of mind.
McGrath relied on his mind to execute those perfect outswingers. He may have gone astray with his jibes at batsmen, but the line and length did not. For him, the game needed "80 to 90 per cent" mental strength. "Ability is 10 to 20 per cent requirement," goes a famous quote by the pace legend.
Waugh often highlights his stance on what constitutes the winning habit. “The formula for success comes from the strength of mind.”
And these blokes, along with Ricky Ponting, used to have fun with their opposition; often rile them up to come on top in a session. Ponting would engage in unnecessary chats with opponent players as part of his intimidation plans.
Kohli's method to his madness is similar. He just hung on to the mood set by former captain Sourav Ganguly who brought in a change in the early 2000s.
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The international cricketing world is still coming to terms with India's aggression. There is no problem if Pat Cummins throws a bouncer to Mohammed Shami to fracture his forearm in Australia, but there will be talk if an Indian bowls a barrage of bouncers to a tailender away from home.
The Test cricket of today is result-oriented, and the players are always hungry to win. At the end of the day, it was Kohli who ran to Anderson to shake hands proving that the intensity was limited to the passage of play.
We must let the big boys play the way they want to. If you are playing Test cricket, there will be heat. Now, over to Headingley.
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