True masters of post-war cricket

WITH awesome authority the Aussies completed the annhiliation of India to author a series victory that has been hailed as the conquest of the last frontier.

WITH awesome authority the Aussies completed the annhiliation of India to author a series victory that has been hailed as the conquest of the last frontier. The triumph at Nagpur in the third Test by a record margin of 342 runs makes their supremacy a point beyond dispute. In outsmarting and outplaying the opposition both at Bangalore and Nagpur, leaving aside the aborted finish in the second Test at Chennai to the conjecture of the followers, the Australians confirmed yet again their passion to accomplish a target set. The outcome, realised after a span of 35 years, deserves approbation.

Not long ago, an Australian commentator wrote, "The Australian team cannot be faulted for its brilliance; but it would be to cricket's benefit if the rest of the world provided some competition." This observation by Greg Baum in the Sydney Morning Herald, when the Aussies had a golden phase of remaining unbeaten for 16 Tests in a row, may contain a filament of arrogance; but the fact that the Aussies have always remained a force cannot be ignored either.

Even the celebrated English writer, Neville Cardus, went on in a similar vein when the Aussies were on that memorable tour of England in 1948 under the great Don. Wrote Cardus, "A bowler bowls, Bradman makes a stroke, not a single fieldsman moves, and the ball is returned from the boundary. The essence of any game is conflict. And there was no conflict here; the superiority of one side was overwhelming."

Commentators will tend to agree that the current Aussies are no less superior to the Indians. The absence of that astute leader Steve Waugh, or the inability of the appointed captain, Ricky Ponting, from taking the reins due to an injury, proved no deterrent. Under the stand-in skipper, Adam Gilchrist, they displayed their wares in almost every aspect of the game with charming conviction. Factors that amalgamate the effect and efficacy of teamwork were transparent as the Aussies serenaded their way through.

Praiseworthy was their balance in all segments. They batted with purpose, displaying flair, determination and fortitude; bowled unflinchingly to a plan and pattern and fielded well enough, although the fielding level cannot be portrayed as impeccable. The youth content bloosomed while the tested and tried men proved their worth in gold time and again. A rookie like Michael Clarke established himself in the big league with a century on debut at Bangalore, while Damien Martyn underscored the essence of fortitude in the company of Gillespie to pull the chestnuts out of the fire in Chennai.

For the seasoned campaigners, there were milestones to cross. Shane Warne wrested the world record in Chennai while the great Glenn McGrath not only earned his 100th cap at Nagpur but had the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar to touch the 450 mark. In a nutshell, the Aussies did everything they were expected to do and did that with an appreciable degree of enthusiasm and precision. Admittedly, it was a collective effort, but a lot of credit for marshalling the forces should go to Adam Gilchrist.

It goes without saying but seldom goes without being said that the Aussies are the true masters of post-war cricket. They signalled the regeneration of the sport under that incomparable master Donald Bradman in 1948. The debate will be endless if one were to initiate it asking whether the Aussies could raise a combination to stand comparison to the squad that Don led in 1948. But it is a safe bet to answer in the affirmative that every decade saw a cluster of men moving on to the world-stage.

Every series involving India and Australia has proved eventful even when the teams were ill-matched as the Indians showed themselves in 1947 in Australia. The first official team came to India in 1956 under Ian Johnson featuring some stars like Neil Harvey.

Since then there have been several memorable moments which include, apart from the second tied Test in the history at Chennai in 1986, that magnum opus of off-spinner Jasu Patel on a dusty track at Kanpur 1959, the classic 10-wicket match haul of Prasanna against Bill Lawry's team, the 128 not out by Nawab of Pataudi (jr) against the team led by Bobby Simpson and the explosive 119 by Kapil Dev in 1986. However, everything goes into oblivion before the mammoth innings of V. V. S. Laxman at Kolkata.

Cricket lovers do regret missing the spectacle of Miller and Lindwall unwinding their mastery in 1956. Lindwall displayed the power and elegance of pace bowling as did Alan Davidson and Graham McKenzie later. Richie Benaud was the showman in 1959 with his classic leg spin as with the qualities of leadership, which was carried forward by the likes of Bobby Simpson and Bill Lawry, who was the last to record a series win here before Adam Gilchrist matched the feat the other day.

Veni, Vidi, Vici... that in a nutshell is the Aussie tour of India in 2004.