One of the points made by a stalwart of Indian cricket, apropos of our first series victory in Australia after so many years of efforts, is that it is the current lot’s fitness level that made the difference. “It’s not as if we didn’t try to win when there,” it was said, though not in precisely these words, “but back in our days, everyone worked out on his own, and today it’s completely different and the captain, Virat Kohli, shows how it’s to be gone about.” If that really were the Open Sesame, well might a lot of people be left wondering, on hearing excellence explained with technical insight, what the assorted injuries in the squad were all about.
Prithvi Shaw, justfiably projected as a major attraction, hurt himself before the first Test and sat out the entire series. Ravichandran Ashwin did very well in the first Test, picking up a rich haul, but was said subsequently to have been injured. Before Sydney, India’s self-contradictory statements on a day of high drama, showing amazing alacrity in repudiating what they had said a short while earlier in trying to explain whether or not Ashwin would be in the first-choice XI made headlines. Ravindra Jadeja reportedly carried an injury to Australia and found himself in the middle of a blazing row over his physical eligibility for action. He had not been brought on initially but came to be allowed into the third and fourth Tests. You never really knew what the decision-makers were up to ~ and why.
If transparency is the requirement of the times, it was conspicuous by its absence in the way some of the exclusions were being decided upon. Very difficult it was to disabuse oneself of the notion that the ones internally deemed personae non gratae were being unofficially shunted aside with the official tag of being less than fit. Similar problems, after all, were mumbled about in both South Africa and England.
The difference this time around is that India pulled it off in Australia, after decades of failure, inclusive of the phase when Kerry Packer’s shock-and-awe invasion had left cricket Down Under in a state of panic. Monday’s admittedly remarkable triumph, though, does not glorify India’s strongly suspected behind-the-scenes activity in terms of bunging the favourite ones in. It was said during and after the Perth Test and it would continue to be pointed out if people up top were not inclined to play fair and square. Indian cricket’s continued well-being will hinge primarily on honest intrateam competition at home and abroad, with everyone being treated equally. If this basic principle is deviated from, it is quite likely that this triumph will pave the way for long, fallow periods in the future. We will not be growing the right way if no honesty of purpose characterises our basic approach.