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Who would have thought vote bank politics was also good for the game, eh?

I suppose this is the first time I hear someone happily recounting a bout of jaundice. Well, you couldn’t have timed it better….or could you have? How about 2001? As an aside, is the ’01 India-Australia series one of the rare exceptions of an absolute epic for the ages without it being a 5-test series?

Talking of 2001 and 2005, apart from the standalone quality of the contest of an epic series, do you find the stage of our personal life to deeply influence how we view the quality of the series? Sometimes I wonder if I can recognize the scale of the greatness of a 2001 series if it happens now when my life doesn’t completely revolve around it

2005 Ashes offers such fertile grounds for pondering over the counterfactual history, isn’t it? It’s partly the canvas offered by the 5-test format but largely the constantly fluctuating fortunes of a highly dramatic series. What if McGrath didn’t step on the ball….What if Ponting didn’t choose to bowl after winning the toss…What if Warnie held on to KP’s edge….What if Brett Lee didn’t bat out the tense few overs at Manchester. The what if I am most fascinated by is the Kasprowciz dismissal at Edgbaston – what if DRS existed then? Kasper’s instantaneous disappointment suggests that perhaps he wouldn’t have even realised that it was technically not out. But what if he referred it anyway because there was a referral left? Would the TV umpire have been alert enough? And if Australia had won it, how many of us would be pondering over how England was robbed of a certain win with Australia reeling at 220/9?

I have internally conflicting takes on the impact of that Ashes on Test cricket profile and cricket governance at large. One is the easy conclusion that one of the most dramatic series of all time revived the Ashes, raised the profile of Test cricket at least in England, and perhaps the reason why they were relevant enough for the BCCI to even accede to the idea of the Big3 takeover more than a decade later. On a related note, I miss the good old Asian solidarity of the Dalmiya days. Who would have thought vote bank politics was also good for the game, eh?

But in many ways it’s a lazy narrative for the ’05 win for England was a result of so many path dependent events taking the right turn at the right moments to swing in favour of England. More importantly the following Ashes in ’07 was a clinical whitewash as McGrath-Warne brought the normal proceedings in Ashes back after an anomaly. It’s only when Australia churned over the golden generation and Anderson & Broad rose in stature that the Ashes became a sustained contest. So it’s very likely that the Ashes was headed to this territory of competitive rivalry even without an England win in ’05.

Coming back to India’s away run in the noughties: In the ’02 England series India’s batting kept getting better as the series progressed, especially Dravid’s. But so was England’s and unlike the conditions that India played in this series where a couple of incisive spells could help run through the opposition, India had to produce sustained quality spells to take 20 wickets in those conditions – but would have been an entertaining fifth test either way.

Australia ’03-04 is again a similar scenario- our batting would have held up well but even the Adelaide win came on the back of a once in a lifetime spell from Agarkar, so not sure if we had the bowling attack to take twenty wickets again. Agree with you on Australia ’07-08 but what if Bucknor….

SA ’10 I would have loved to see a 5 test series purely for an extended battle between Sachin and Steyn. ’06 WI, doubt we would have held on to the lead.

I am most curious about ’07 England – one, we had a decent seam attack in that series and two, I would think Dravid would have shown more initiative to go for a win in the Oval test if there were 5 tests both as a batsman by going for quick runs and as a captain by declaring sooner.

As I was browsing the scorecard, I see that Sachin had bowled 19 overs in the fourth innings of the Oval Test. I don’t think I recollect any of it right now. Is this how cricketing memories beyond the pivotal moments gradually fade away with passage of time? Would we reach a stage where we’ll talk of Lara’s 153 and not remember the breathtaking 100 he got in the following Antigua test?

Mahesh

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