For a generation of Indian cricket fans nothing can compare to the India-Australia series of 2001. For sheer watchability, drama, aesthetic pleasure and the making of heroes no series played in India has come close to that. From Harbhajan Singh’s bucketload of wickets that included a hat-trick to India’s escape from jail in Kolkata, fuelled by V. V. S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid, a generation of Indian cricket legends had their steel forged in that furnace of pressure.
It’s 7.30 in the morning and the Pune sun is yet to become its harsh best.
There is a lone batsman out at the nets. He’s taking throw-downs from a left-arm spinner who is firing the ball in flat and at pace. The batsman is not wearing a front pad because he wants to develop the habit of feeling the ball on the middle of his bat, ruling out pad play and with it the lbw. The batsman in question is Steven Smith, Australia’s captain, and the man walking him through this extra practice session, while a Test match is on, is S. Sriram. If one image summed up Australia’s mentality as they attempted to tame India and its conditions, it is this.
There was a time, not long ago, when Virat Kohli needed to be taken under wing.
He got lucky in that Yuvraj Singh, one of his buddies, a fellow flamboyant batsman, had ridden the cricketing roller-coaster, enjoying the highs to the hilt and enduring the lows with grace. He was fortunate in that his captain at Royal Challengers Bangalore, Anil Kumble, was as dissimilar from himself as possible, focussing on cricket in the staidest possible manner to the exception of all else. He was serendipitous in that he worshipped the ground Sachin Tendulkar walked on, for his batting, his commitment to being prepared and his considerable achievements, rather than looking elsewhere.
Just as every bitter pill inevitably has a side effect, the one that the BCCI was forced to swallow has had a slew of consequences that neither the Lodha Committee nor the courts of the land either anticipated or particularly cared about.
First it recommended, then it strongly suggested, then it made acerbic remarks and when none of these approaches got it the desired results, the Justice Lodha Committee hit the Board of Control for Cricket in India where it hurt the most: it went after the money. No, the committee did not fine the BCCI, it merely took away the Board’s right to spend its money how it wanted.