As a fan watching India chase down 328 on Day 5 of the last match of the series, I experienced a plethora of emotions, and one among them was pride.
India did the unthinkable. They broke Australia's 31-year no-loss record at Brisbane. A lesser team would have been overawed by the history and would have accepted defeat even before the first day, but this Indian team is made differently.
It comprises of 20+-year-olds who acknowledge the past but don't get bogged down by it. They brim with confidence and have aspirations that will touch the moon and the stars beyond. They do show nerves during crucial points of the match, but they back themselves to win the game from any situation. They believe.
And it is this belief that was lacking in our team over the last few decades. Some called it a killer instinct. Most of our aspirations back then were hinged on a couple of players, and the rest of them just made the official 11. All of us at some point have turned off the TV when a Sachin, Sehwag, Dhoni, Kohli have got out. We did not even give a chance to our bowling to win matches for us.
We sucked at back-to-the-wall cricket. There were very few instances where we showed the belief, and even if we did, we did not have the firepower to achieve the victory from difficult situations. The Natwest 2002 final and the Kolkota test in 2001 come to mind where we showed glimpses of what the team was capable of. However, in between the far and few instances, our belief to win from any situation was locked in the kit bag & the key was thrown deep into the Indian ocean. In 2003 final, we had to chase down the 350+ target only Sehwag had the belief, and he scored a dainty 84 while the rest of the batting lined up succumbed to the pressure.
Much has been said about the new India (the nation) which thinks differently and is more aggressive than our collective decades of "inaction". Though most of it is only a narrative that suits the ruling government to harness the jingoism we are happy to indulge in. The Young India I presume do not have the past baggage and even if they know about it, they don't seem to care. They believe they can be the best in the world and the second spot on the podium is not even an option.
As much as we want to believe that this team that won the Border-Gavaskar series was made right after Kohli left for his paternity duties that ain't true. This side is still the Shastri-Kohli team that they have made their own with their unique aggressive styles. The series, however, does show the bench strength of our nation. Due to the robust domestic cricket system, India can throw match-winners at the international circuit regularly. As much as I would love to accredit all of it to Dravid and his stint as a coach for Under-19 and India A teams, there is a system that is put in place by BCCI which just works.
As Sundar and Pant were chasing down the runs in the last few overs, there was a passage of play where Pant was unable to score Lyon and Sundar was jittery at the crease. We were close, and the pressure was mounting on the players and the fans who were biting whatever was left of their nails. Then came the release shot, which will remain etched in my memory for a long time. It was a short ball, and Sundar swivelled and played the pull shot to hit a Six over the square leg. It eased the tension, and it is then we 90's kids believed that we had the match in our bag. It took us time to believe as we are not used to believing. More importantly, Pant and Sundar believed and never doubted their abilities to secure the win. It's time to hand over the reins to these 20+ folks and enter the era of Indian cricket which we can sit back and enjoy.