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Mad Max - Delhi Road

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There was a stain; not a very dirty one, but a significant stain nevertheless. India hadn’t won a series in Sri Lanka in 22 years. Backs to the wall, 1- 1 in the three match Test series, it all came down to the wrath of one ‘still in the promising stages’ Delhi fast bowler who paved ‘THE’ road (keeping the title in mind) to a series win finally on Lankan soil.

Ishant Sharma’s antics on the field could possibly have been mistaken for a depressed son in the army returning from a warzone, but that's what won India the game. That's what won the hearts of all the fans keeping an eye on this series very closely. A rampant fast bowler intimidating a batting team in their own den, in their own backyard, as if it was an everyday brawl on the streets of Delhi.

Can cricket viewing get any better? Nope. Maybe he crossed the line? Yes. Did it do the trick for what was at stake? You got your answer.

It all started in the 1st innings with Herath and Ishant having a go at each other. Ishant’s supreme five-fer in the first innings enabled India to amass a massive lead and Ashwin, sent in below Mishra in the batting order, stretched India’s lead and did his thing with a vital four-wicket haul in the final innings.

Virat Kohli knew what was up. He calculated the chances of Ishant getting fined or possibly suspended for the next couple of games against South Africa. But all that mattered to him was the present day, the killer instinct that India unfortunately lacked under Dhoni all these years.

It was good to see the mature side of Virat for a change. For example: in the 4th innings, when Dhammika Prasad was just walking out to bat, Virat sensed danger straightaway and shunned Ishant to long leg, one of the parts of the ground furthest from the crease. Aggression where not required (as India already had the game in the kitty by then) is aggression wasted. Kohli has seemed to learn a bit of that with his years of experience, and hopefully he'll also learn how to curb some of his unnecessary wild on-field celebrations at the fall of every damned wicket.

The turn of events in this Test is just a glimpse of how much aggression actually matters on a cricket field. The apparently “premium” series going on in England didn't even come remotely close to the thrilling, evenly-contested series played here in Sri Lanka. Both the teams have had revelations of their own. While Angelo Mathews and Dhammika Prasad looked a class apart from the rest of their team-mates, Ashwin, Rahane, Pujara and Ishant all stood up and stood out when it really mattered.

 

Aggression can be shown in many forms. Ganguly showed it through intentional delays at the toss. Clarke showed it through bold declarations, field setups. McCullum's aggressive intent shone through his batting. Graeme Smith's bulky, intimidating figure was enough. This time, without being headmaster of the School of Abuse for a change, Virat Kohli showed it through supporting aggression. If Ishant was not furious with Dhammika while batting, no way would he have been so pumped while bowling later on. When madness takes over, give the bowler a spell where he's allowed to do absolutely whatever he wants with the field, on the field.  Sometimes it may not work. Sometimes, it gives you series clinching Test victories.

It might just be the start of good things to come under the captaincy of Virat Kohli. As expected, there are still a number of blips. Rohit Sharma has been shifted around so much that the entire batting line-up is being chopped and changed to accommodate him. For me, there’s only one fixed place for him in Tests: right out of the squad. With Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay opening, Cheteshwar Pujara oozes the right, technical qualities at the prime number 3 position. Kohli in next and Rahane to round it off perfectly at number 5. Whether India go in with KL Rahul or bring in Wriddhiman Saha or Naman Ojha (to play a specialist keeper or not to play a specialist keeper?) is left to see.

The wicketkeeper’s role needs to be sorted out. Virat was vulnerable in the corridor outside off stump yet again. Ishant has been off-colour since his magnificent debut Down Under in 2008. With 60 Tests under his belt, this series might just be what he needs to command respect as the spearhead of the bowling attack. Mitchell Johnson peaked quite late in his Test career, as did Jimmy Anderson. With the right motivation, and a little curb in aggression, Ishant has the chance to revive his sunken Test career.

All this might fall in place later, as India welcome South Africa for what promises to be an exciting clash. It’ll be a battle between the South Africans, who have a knack of winning away series, and India, whose reputation of home advantage bullies is yet to be untarnished. This series win might just start to bring back India’s Ganguly days.

Mad Max - Fury Road was path breaking in terms of the cinematography and the raw roughness of the characters. India needs a new direction in Test cricket, and the lads have provided just that with the screening of Mad Max - Delhi Road at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground.

 


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