Welcome dear reader to the year 2038. You join Prashant Tiwari as he celebrates his birthday. Nagged by his son he recounts a tale from 20 years previous. The mythical saga of when India’s cricketing side, captained by the great Virat Kohli, lost in England. Despite defeat this fabled story led to the start of a dynasty. Settle back and relax as we peer through the mists of time…
Chapter 1: A Birthday Story
Prashant, who just had a big birthday celebration last night at his apartment in Munich, watches some old cricket clips on his iPad. Upon entering the room his 10 year old son, Aryan comes up to him and was surprised to see his father so sad. “Dad, what are you watching? And why are you so sad on a Sunday morning?” asks Aryan. Prashant gives a wry smile replying, “Son, I am watching the highlights of an old cricket series.”
Seeing Aryan’s confusion, Prashant continues, ”It was way back in 2018, long before you were even born when India toured England and even though India lost, it was a memorable series.” Aryan, a huge cricket fan himself, jumps up and excitedly acclaims, “Dad, I have read about it. But haven’t we already beaten England on English soil three times since then?”
“Yes son, we have indeed. But that was the series where it all started or was meant to start for Team India and we failed, after coming so so close.”
“How so Dad? I want to know everything,” inquires young Aryan. Prashant shuts down his tablet and says, ”Come I will tell you all about that series. Where should I start?”
“Right from the very beginning Papa, right from the very beginning.”
Chapter 2: We Don’t Like Cricket, We Love It!
“Okay. So I was 23 back then and residing in India couldn’t wait for the series to start. But as the series progressed, hope started to evaporate. The tour began with a T20 series which we won easily and then the ODI series which England won quite convincingly. But it was the red ball cricket that gave me joy like no other. Everyone thought that because India had been in the country for a month, Indian players would be better acclimatised to English conditions and would flourish in the summer. But little did they know what was about to come…”
“But Test Cricket is so boring Dad! It goes on for like five days. And they play in all whites.” Prashant laughs, replying, “Yes. It can look boring from the outside but it is still the best thing in the game of cricket.”
“Aryan. Have you done your homework? You have a class test tomorrow right?” shouts his Mother from the kitchen.
“Yeah Mom. Going to. I am just talking with Dad here,” Aryan shouted back.
“Okay buddy, go now. You need to study for the test. We can talk about this later.”
“No, no, no! I want to know more. Pleeeaaase Dad,” pleads Aryan.
“Haha. Okay. I will tell you in short about this series. Real quick. Okay?”.
“Yaay!” Aryan shrieks in jubilation.
Chapter 3: The Dementors Kiss
“The first test was at Edgbaston and we should have won it. It was a modest target of 194 in the fourth innings and we just crumbled. I still remember how low I felt that day. It felt like the dementors had sucked the life out of me. You may wonder why was I so sad because this was not India’s first defeat in England or its heaviest one. But it is the hope that kills.
At first, it started on a sour note as our useless openers departed early. Virat did score a half-century but there was no one around him to support and we fell short by 31 runs in the end. This was so painful as it was India’s fourth narrowest margin of defeat, ever. And you know what the worst part was? We didn’t learn from our mistakes and in the fourth test at Southampton, we were let down by our batsmen again. Captain Kohli performed again but those around him failed.“
“But Dad, you said, Indian batsmen failing India? What? How is that possible? Aren’t we traditionally the batting powerhouses of the world?” counters Aryan.
“Yes. We are. But in that series and if I remember correctly, in the South Africa series as well, it was the batting that proved to be our Achilles heel. And this brings me to the next point which will surprise you. Our bowling was just superb. Out of this world to be honest.”
Chapter 4: Stuff Of Legends
“We knew it was quite great when the fast bowlers single-handedly won us the third test in Johannesburg in Africa. But to perform consistently better in a 5 test match series, against England, and in overcast conditions was stuff of legends. Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma were outstanding but Jasprit Bumrah was at another level. It was such a shame that he missed the first two tests with a finger injury but it was his sensational bowling at Trent Bridge that saw India come back strongly in the series. In fact, the Indian bowlers didn’t deserve to be on the losing side of the 4-1 series defeat.”
“Wait. You are talking about THE Jasprit Bumrah? The player who has helped us win two World Cups since then?” a bewildered Aryan cuts in.
“Yes. I am talking about him only. He made his test debut in South Africa but truly came of age in this England tour. He played only three matches of the series but ended up picking 14 wickets. Only if we had Bhuvi with us for that series, only if. It could have been all so different. I am sure those two together would have scripted a historic series win that year.”
Chapter 5: A Sting In The Tail
Breathless with excitement at hearing of these mythical figures, Aryan ponders his next question. “What more Dad? England won the series 4-1. They would have been good too, right?”
“Of course they were good. The stand out player for them was a young lad, a 20 year old Sam Curran. He was at the heart of almost everything good that happened with England. In fact, he single-handedly changed the course of the series, not once but twice. Firstly, it was at the opening test at Edgbaston. In the second innings, India had England reeling 87/7 and a lead of just 100 runs. But then Curran arrived and all of a sudden it looked like a different pitch altogether. He added an invaluable 63 runs and took England to 180.
And as if this was not enough, he did the same thing in the fourth test. Coming into this game on the back of a magnificent win at Trent Bridge, India were on the brink of another victory and yet again, Curran stood tall. He scored 46 to take England to 271 and the 4th innings target of 245 again proved too much for India.”
“What else Papa? Was it just a one-man show for England that year?” questions Aryan.
“I wish I could say that Aryan. But India’s nemesis, James Anderson was on form again and he took 24 wickets across 5 matches in the series. In my opinion, he is one of the best bowlers of all time and you know what, he took the wicket of Mohammad Shami, the last wicket in the last test of the series to get to 564 wickets and leave the great Glenn McGrath behind him.”
Chapter 6: The Man Who Would Be King
“It would have been all gloom and doom for an Indian fan during that tour, right Dad?” says Aryan in a low voice.
“No Son. It wasn’t. The great Virat Kohli stepped up on that tour. Do you know that he had failed miserably during the 2014 tour of England and had managed only 139 runs in 10 innings? But in 2018, he arrived in England as a beast and buried his demons of the past in the very first test match when he scored a mind-boggling 149. In the series, he was the highest run scorer with 593 runs which included two hundreds and three fifties. When Kohli was batting, it felt like time stood still. He was in a universe of his own where he defined the rules of the game and others were mere participants. It was the tour which established him as the greatest batsman of our generation and look at him today, he sits there with a record of 111 international centuries. He is a legend, isn’t he?”
“I know, right. He is a God. I wish I had a memory of watching him play live,” beams Aryan.
“But Papa? What went wrong? If India had such a great bowling attack and a captain of the ilk of Kohli, how did we lose?”
Chapter 7: Long Live Test Cricket
“Well. It all started with the shitty planning by the BCCI. I still remember how the coaching staff and the team management had us all believe that by playing the ODIs and T20s first, Team India would acclimatise to the conditions in a better way. But the truth is there was not enough preparation for the test matches. You just can’t prepare for the test cricket by playing white ball matches. The team got to have one or two of those proper first-class games under the belt. Just like it was in South Africa, we were undercooked and paid the price for it at the end.
But overall, the series was a celebration of red ball cricket which showed to the fans around the world that if good pitches are prepared and both teams play positive cricket, test cricket is here to live and prosper.”
Chapter 8: Start Of A Dynasty
“Aryaaaaaaaaaaann,” shouts his Mom.
“Go now, son. I don’t want to make your mom angry.”
“Okay okay. But thanks, dad. Really loved it. Sometimes I wonder why you became a football manager. You should have been a cricket coach instead,” jokes Aryan.
“Hahahaha. Football’s my love and my passion but at the end of the day, we are Indians, aren’t we? And so, cricket is our religion.”
Aryan smiles, running away to his room. Sitting there a sense of satisfaction glows through Prashant, for he is content that Aryan could one day, continue this hereditary love for cricket. For 2018 was truly the start of a dynasty.”