Coming To Terms With Ahmedabad

I know India lost — and lost badly — last week, but I didn’t really care much when it happened. As I dutifully refreshed Cricinfo’s live scorecard, I read each Indian wicket’s fall with unexpected stoicism. It’s strange; my family will tell you that whenever India loses, I inevitably suffer a long bout of depression — no food, no smiles. It’s really all quite pathetic. But the 2nd Test did nothing like that for me.

Part of this was due to the dreadful match in Chennai, where the bowlers were just as much spectators as the rest of us were. At last, I thought to myself, here was some action from the other end of the pitch, and so what if India were on the receiving end: this was just more fun. Besides, 20-over innings in Test matches are a rare thing, and even more so in India, where attrition and patience works better than out-and-out aggression.

But more than all that, I think this Test arrived at an awkward time in the calendar, and I’m not talking about the onset of the IPL. After India’s winning antics in Australia, England, the West Indies (and, yes, partially in South Africa), it’s just hard for me to care either way what happens in this series. When you have seen the mountaintop, a leisurely stroll in plains matters so much less. For years, India responded to criticisms about its away record with talk of “Fortress India,” which was fair enough. But modern India wants more; the defense of the homeland now doesn’t compare to burnishing the country’s image abroad. In other words, I’ll take Perth over Ahemedabad any day.

And yet, it’s increasingly clear that what happened in Gujarat wasn’t just a drubbing, but a moment of immense importance. India will never be the same. In fact, a year or two from now, when the Big Four (and Kumble) finally retire, we’ll have this Test to cite as the signal that started it all. We have seen the greats fail before, but nothing like this. After the whirlwind tours of the last four or five years, they have already written their greatest hits. Anything extra now will be just cheap remixes and compilation albums.

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