After India's debacle in the 2007 World Cup, the last 12 months have been perhaps the most glorious in the history of Indian cricket.
Only 1971 with its twin maiden triumphs in the West Indies and England can stand comparison. Since the early exit in the Caribbean, the Indian team have won in Bangladesh and England, beaten Pakistan at home and lifted the inaugural Twenty-20 World Cup in South Africa. They ran world champions Australian mighty close in the Test series as well.
Now the icing on the cake is the Under-19 World Cup triumph in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend and the stunning victory over the hosts in the tri-series Down Under. Along with a feeling of victory and vindication, there must also be palpable relief that the most bitterly contentious tour since the Bodyline series of 1933-33 has finally come to an end.
The ill-feeling between the two sides blew up with the Harbhajan/Symonds controversy in the Sydney Test last January and simmered right through the tour. Though he was not quite as pure and innocent as some in the Indian press sought to portray him, certainly the level of abuse Harbhajan Singh received at the hands of the Australian media, spectators and players crossed all limits of decency.
The off spinner gave the most befitting reply by bowling splendidly in the two finals, getting the better of his nemesis, both Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden whose public vilification of Harbhajan brought things to a new low.
The return to form of Sachin Tendulkar and his elevation to the world No. 1 ODI batsman ranking is one of the high points of the series. But it is the courageous captaincy of MS Dhoni that must elevate him to cult status — if he has not already achieved that following the T-20 triumph last year and his massive price tag at last month's Indian Premier League auctions.
It is no wonder he is the most sought after cricketer in the world today, at least in the limited overs versions. Dhoni in the span of six months has shown he is his own man and has the courage of his convictions. He has stuck his neck out for his young teammates and they have rewarded him in the best way possible. He was condemned by certain sections for apparently being behind the ouster from the limited-overs teams of seniors such as Sourav Ganguly. Now Dhoni and the selectors who backed him stand vindicated. The young guns have shown the way and this augurs well for the future of Indian cricket.
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