There is a scene in the movie Sholay, arguably the most iconic movie in Indian cinema, where one of the protagonists, resplendent in ‘Holi’ colors, tells her future father-in-law what roughly translates to ‘if colors were not there, how bleak would this world be.’ (The word-to-word translation, ‘if colors were not there, how colorless would this world be’, could find its way into Ravi Shastri’s ever popular commentary some day). Jokes apart, the analogy is very fitting in the context of India’s big win in the second ODI at Cardiff. The dab of blue certainly seemed to bring out an upgraded version of the lot which had meekly surrendered just about ten days back. Before I continue, I know that it is too early to rejoice, but I also know that if the Test at Lord’s was an example, then ‘rejoice while you still can’ is not a bad idea either.
We will soon come to know in a few days time if this performance was just a flash in the pan; what will be difficult to decipher is if the super-show yesterday was the result of a sprinkling of color, or if the new boss (as per BCCI at least) Shastri came up with a magical pep talk which rejuvenated the team. While this debate can rage on, I am fairly confident that infusion of positivity was the key differentiator, something which I wrote about in the lead-up to the series. When the game started, India seemed to be very much in the hangover of the Test series, with the score 26/2 at the end of the first 10 overs.
Though Virat Kohli will be chastised for getting out for a duck, this is where I spotted the first instance of positivity. Kohli, who could hardly move his feet in the Test matches, moved down the pitch in a flash and made a perfect connection with the ball – the timing was great as well, but unfortunately, the ball flew directly to Alistair Cook at mid-off and he took a good catch. Ajinkya Rahane kept up the momentum, but it was Suresh Raina, who I consider the most positive player in recent Team India squads, after Virender Sehwag, who took the bowling by the scruff of its neck. It was a sheer joy to watch positive intent translate into runs – an example being the straight six of Chris Woakes; it did not seem that Raina was planning to be aggressive that delivery, but the positive mindset allowed him to immediately switch into an attacking mode on seeing a perfect half volley. The top-edged six a couple of balls later was yet another example of reacting to the delivery as opposed to a pre-emption. While Shastri may chide him by calling him ‘a compulsive hooker’, the oodles of positivity flowing through a very fresh Raina put India firmly in the driver’s seat. Dhoni was his usual reliable-in-ODI self, and the fact that India crossed 300 meant that, to win, England would have to do something they only managed twice before in ODIs in the country.
When England came out to chase the target, revised to below 300 after a brief spell of rain, Alistair Cook’s negative mindset set the tone for the rest of the match. While debutante Alex Hale looked supremely confident, Cook hobbled about in a manner reminiscent of Indian batsmen in the final three Tests. When he eventually got out to Mohammed Shami, he seemed to have passed on the negativity to Ian Bell, who for some inexplicable reason thought that it might be a good idea to leave a ball which from the beginning was heading towards the middle-stump. The dismissal of Joe Root, the in-form batsman, to an unplayable delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, sealed the match, in my opinion. Towards the latter half of the Test series, the frustration was very evident on Kumar’s face; this wicket will go a long way in healing some of his scars.
English batsmen then proceeded to present a colorized version of their capitulation to aggression during their second innings at the Lord’s Test. (for India’s sake, I would hope that the similarity ends there, knowing well what came next). Ravindra Jadeja, who scarcely managed a wicket in his final match of the Test series, was suddenly picking up wickets at will, Ashwin’s couple would help his confidence, and even the hero of India’s batting innings, Raina, picked up a wicket. While this was an excellent victory for India, the irony lies in the fact that the team which was supposed to be down after a mauling ten days back, was in fact the one with a more positive outlook, and that in the end, made the difference.