Young Indian side buries ghosts of England 2011 and Australia 2012

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Roughly a year and a half ago, the Indian team was nursing the wounds inflicted on its pride by the Australian team that still had more than a fair share of match-winners in its ranks. India, apart from losing all four Tests, had also failed to qualify to the finals of the triangular series. The mediocre performance, coming on the back of an equally disappointing show in England (with the home tour of West Indies sandwiched in between) was considered by many to be the beginning of the end of the Indian dominance in World cricket. Of course, India had not, even for a brief span of time, enjoyed as preponderant a presence in the cricketing sphere as that of the West Indies side of the 1980s or the Australian side of the 1990s and early 2000s.
But, the Indian side that won the 50-Over World Cup in 2011 was certainly no pushover and this fact had come to the fore when India foiled South Africa's bid to win a Test series in the latter's own backyard just before the World Cup. India, riding on a fantastic 96 by the man born to absorb pressure, VVS Laxman, bounced back after being pulverised in the first Test at Centurion to clinch the second Test at Durban. A fighting ton by a visibly ailing Jacques Kallis in the third Test almost guaranteed the host a series victory but Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid came up with sterling, albeit overtly defensive performances to deny South Africa yet again. In the wake of inarguably its best ever performance on South African soil, the Indian team was brimming with confidence and even the harshest and most cynical of the game's observers and commentators did not hesitate to dub India the favourite to win the 2011 World Cup.
To Sachin Tendulkar, the 2011 triumph was the culmination of a rich, fruitful career. For the rest of them, mostly youngsters, it was probably the foreword to the glorious chapter of Indian cricket that they planned on writing. But, the script that unfolded in the aftermath of one of India's most glorious hours in cricket was nothing short of a horror show, particularly for those who were a part of the team. India played as many as 11 international matches in England but failed to taste victory even in one of them. India was given a brief respite when a West Indies team, far from being a patch on the side that had intimidated the cricket world for close to 15 years, toured India. Against a hapless Caribbean unit, the Indian side put up such a dominant performance that fans were left wondering if the catastrophe in England had ever happened. Reality, however, sprouted its terrifying face yet again in Australia and at the end of the tour, India was left in a shambles.
Following the debacle at Australia, Dravid decided to call it a day only to be followed by his friend and partner in crime, Laxman months later. The loss of two batsmen, who had for over 10 years served as the spine of the fragile Indian middle-order, had a disastrous immediate effect. India lost its first Test series on home soil since 2004 to England and calls for the ouster of Dhoni along with half of the team, including the venerable Tendulkar, grew to such gargantuan proportions that many feared the BCCI office in Mumbai would come down. But, it clearly seemed like the Captain, his charges and lest we forget, the selectors, all of them knew that the night was, after all, darkest before the dawn.
While India's dismal performance against England did result in a few old hands like those of Gambhir being shown the door, a complete overhaul of the national side, despite the overpowering innuendo in the popular media, did not take place. Eventually, the selectors also lost patience with Virender Sehwag's "My way or the highway" attitude and after having lent him yet another lease of life in the series against Australia, decided to put him out of his misery by axing him from the squad halfway through the series.
The doors firmly closed on Gambhir and Sehwag, the window seemed to open up for Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, two batsmen who seemed to know only too well that fortune was indeed a very capricious mistress. While Vijay played all the four Tests and ended up as the highest run-getter in the series, Dhawan, in the only match he played in the series, had such an impact that the Aussies were to feel the aftereffects even after they went back to Australia. Among other finds of the series was Cheteshwar Pujara, who seemed to revelling in his role as India's new sheet-anchor and Ravindra Jadeja, a player of limited abilities but one huge cricketing brain. Dhoni, with a record breaking double tom in the first Test had silently, but effectively silenced his detractors. India registered its best ever Test victory and a new chapter in Indian cricket's history had dawned.
What followed one of India's most remarkable accomplishments was an episode that brought it infamy. The IPL spot fixing scandal will go down as the darkest hour in Indian cricket, not because of its magnitude or the scale of corruption involved, but because it brought to light the rot that seemed to have percolated all levels of the BCCI. The circus which was played out in equal measure by the top brass of the BCCI and popular media seemed to make a mockery of those who had given themselves in body and spirit to the game.
The beleaguered Indian side that went to England to contest in the ICC Champions Trophy was without more than half the players who had played vital roles in India's 2011 WC triumph. The feats of Gambhir, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Tendulkar in 2011 now seemed like distant memories with the selectors choosing a side with not one, but both the eyes on the 'future'. It did not take a NASA scientist to figure out what the selectors were alluding to. Their sights were clearly on building a side that would prove to be a redoubtable one in 2015. Many observers scorned the decision of the selectors to field a side that had very few experienced players but each one of them were left in a daze as the young and yet not so young Indian side lifted the Champions Trophy not having  lost even a single match en route to the title. What the success at the Champions Trophy served to do was to convince the multitudes in the country of the potential that the Indian team had to defend the 2011 World Cup. 
The emergence of Virat Kohli as an able leader, the much delayed realisation of his immense talent by Rohit Sharma and of course, the display of India's bench strength in the recently concluded series against Zimbabwe have been some of the salient points that have come to light in the last few months.
The losses to England and Australia are now truly in the past and the cloud, it appears, has finally shifted to reveal the bright future of Indian cricket.

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