I am glad I didn’t have to endure jaundice during the 2001 India-Australia series – because that would have meant missing my second year finals in engineering college. But not watching each ball of an epic series is also a blessing. It keeps your interest alive for years to come. You try and fill in the gaps in your memory by reading accounts, talking to those who were there and revisiting the games on YouTube. The bits that I only caught snatches of (like Tendulkar’s 76 in Mumbai) take on a quasi-mythic quality – especially when you hear stories like how Raj Singh Dungarpur, after one Tendulkar straight drive, stood up in the press box and generously applauded. You remember so much more that happened “around” the series – Bradman passing away before the first Test, Gopichand winning the All-England badminton championship during the Kolkata Test, the Indian team going to dinner at Ganguly’s residence in the middle of the same Test, the Hindu headlines for many of the days (“Dravid, Laxman transcend time, torment Aussies”). The series becomes so much more than bat on ball. Your mind is restless to find out more. To complete the jigsaw, so to speak. I am glad I lived through it. But I am also secretly glad I didn’t watch each and every ball.
Yes, I think the 2005 Ashes gets too much credit for everything. I hope that at some point in the future England come around to seeing the 2012 series win in India as an even greater victory than the 2005 Ashes. One: they were only the third team to win a Test series in India this millennium (after SA in 2000 and Australia in 2004). Two: they beat an Indian side who were terrific at home. Three: they came back from a Test down (like in 2005) and won the series with some big wins (unlike in 2005). Four: the fightback as made possible by one of the finest innings by an England batsman (KP’s 186 in Mumbai) and their wins in Mumbai and Kolkata came via spin (and not their traditional strength, pace). And yes, as you mention, the Ashes rivalry might have turned into a close one anyway at some point in the millennium. But the England side that won in India in 2012 will perhaps remain the last touring side to win in India… for many years.
If at all India have to lose a series at home, here is my hope: that some team visits India for a five-Test series (it will mostly likely be England or Australia, obviously). And that we get a smashing contest over 5 Tests where the visiting team wins (something like the 1974-75 series when India lost to WI). I am guessing it will be so much easier to accept such a memorable defeat.Sidvee