The first decade of the new millennium saw the rise and rise of Indian cricket. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) became the most authoritative voice in the game, the Indian Premier League (IPL) ushered in a new era and, most importantly, the cricket team attained unprecedented success, winning home and away, and eventually acquiring the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) Test mace.
Australia were the king, but India were not far behind. They were the prince, waiting for the coronation. In fact, India were the only team not to lose a Test series against Steve Waugh’s all-conquering Australia Down Under.
India were privileged to have arguably the best batting line-up in the history of the game. Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly formed the ‘Fav Five’. The emergence of Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan made the seam attack potent, and there were Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to take care of the spin bowling department. The ‘team’ concept took precedence and Team India were determined to better their poor overseas record.
Ganguly always judged his team by its performance away from home after he became the captain at the turn of the millennium. He and his teammates laid down the marker.
Before that, the Indian team was all about being tigers at home and paper tigers abroad. The 1990s was the period of “tea-biscuit culture”, shady offshore venues and overseas losses. John Wright described in his autobiography how a vast majority of Indian cricketers used to get cold feet, as soon as they were on board a flight for an overseas assignment. India won just one Test series away from home in the 1990s and that, too, in Sri Lanka.
The record improved drastically in the next 10 years, as India won Test series in Pakistan, England, West Indies and New Zealand, and drew level with Australia and South Africa in their lairs.
The challenge for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s young brigade will be not to take Indian cricket to the dark days of the 1990s.
India would be playing 13 overseas Test matches in the next one year