Sixty-seven years ago, at the stroke of midnight, when the world slept, India woke up to life and freedom from British bondage. Sixty-seven years on, millions of Indians got up early in the morning and trooped to public places that celebrated the anniversary of the big day and got back home hoping that the Indian cricket team will win back a bit of the lost pride at The Oval .
It was, in hind sight, tragic that the fifth and final Test match got off on August 15.
Every single sin in the slips and poke outside off stump committed in the past few post-Lord's days, even the hurtful fact that a great opportunity to post an awesome overseas series win was spinelessly squandered in two humiliating back-back total surrenders at Old Trafford and Southampton, would have been forgiven if the team, or at least a couple guys, showed a hint of steely nerves.
It was, in the end, a dream destined to turn into a nightmare just in a few minutes: Gautam Gambhir was out for a duck to the fourth ball of the innings, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane strode in and walked back to the dressing room to give Gambhir some comfort in solitude, and India were 28 for four by the end of the 16th over.
Indian cricket fans, by now a hapless heap habituated to humiliation, may have never felt so low, but if you are still ready to take without a pinch of salt MSDspeak there's something to smile about. After the second miserable attempt at climbing the English first innings peak folding up in less than 30 overs for 94 runs, Dhoni declares that the process is on, never mind the result, and if at all you think it's the lowest moment, just play back the 2011 memories.
That's the lowest, says Dhoni, so take pride, discover new meanings of freedom… Dhoni and his boys have just saved you from the deepest, lowest mire!
Curiously, a YouTube channel went to street with the question 'azadi kahan milegi' (where can we find our freedom?) on the day when the Indian scoreboard looked like a coconut palm at its final phase of wilting from a Red Palm Weevil attack (For those uninitiated in the pain of coconut cultivation, the snout beetles transform the leaves and soft tissues in the crown into a slimy mass that emits a foul smell before the entire crown collapses and the palm dies).
The answers ranged from the serious (in death) to the silly (in the toilet), but if the video mamma got a chance to thrust her mike at Gambhir as he was making his way back to the dressing room after waiting for a few seconds in the rains for a confirmation of his ridiculous run-out, the answer might have been: "Outside the 22 yards when James Anderson is swinging his stuff." That would have made it beyond doubt why he was desperate to escape to the non-striker's end.
The Tests are over. The five ODIs and the one T20 match will get over in a couple of weeks, and soon it's going to be time for the team to pack up and get back home. While there's clarity in suggesting and wisdom in believing that it's better for everyone concerned, and unconcerned, to throw the fear-shame-humiliation-hurt baggage in the nearest dustbin they find around Edgbaston soon after the September 7 T20 match, it's perhaps time to wonder if they could leave behind a couple of other things. Do we have to have all those 18 back home? Perhaps not.
There are old blokes who are past their use-by date, and there are guys who are like the pouch of spices thrown into some messy corner of the refrigerator and stumbled upon years later, only to discover that the fragrance and flavour have all been sucked out. Some people in India may still have the guts, or shamelessness, to put the old wine in new bottles.
That shouldn't happen, and for that the best way is to leave them behind. If the BCCI is looking for an excuse to do that here is one: if lack of experience in English conditions is what did them in, stay back, try your luck at the counties, rub your shoulder (gently) with Andersons and Broads, get a fair idea where exactly behind your off stump is, etc. This, incidentally, is what some cricket experts suggest now.
Some guys, like Gambhir, Pankaj Singh and Stuart Binny, could be left behind forever, because it's unlikely that they will ever find a place even in the second or third division matches and get to learn or change anything. A couple of guys —for instance, Pujara — could stay until the next tour of England so they would be the brave, suave No. 3 and 4 guys India needed to sprint into the middle. While R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja could learn to spin the ball in English conditions, the entire support staff who did nothing better than invoking divine intervention by sticking posters of deities in the dressing room could visit shrines in and around London to do a better job.
The replacements? The youngsters who did well in Australia recently. Just don't worry if they fit the bill — is there any unexplored bottom to hit afresh?
And now, the Duncan factor. If English conditions are oh-so familiar, he could take flight to wherever else he likes.
And that's the process. The result will follow.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman