The last time India won a series abroad, the feeling we were left with was quite different.
The year was 2011.The opposition was the West Indies. India had won the first test at Kingston by 63 runs and had drawn the second test. Set a target of 180 in the third test, India were 94-3 when Suresh Raina got out. India required 86 runs off the last 15 overs. India’s rising limited overs star, Virat Kohli, was the next man in. An exciting finish to the test match was in the offing.
Kohli did not get to bat.
Content with a draw and a series win, Dhoni shook hands with Sammy. We were left feeling a bit cheated but hey ho, an overseas series win and all said and done we were still the number one test team in the world!
Kohli got dropped from the test team for the England tour to work on his “short ball weakness”.
Then all hell broke lose. We lost tests everywhere.
India, it was thought, had let slip the golden chance to beat a weakened Sri Lanka at home after 22 years.
Then came the P. Sara Oval. A match overshadowed by the retirement of a cricketing giant. A match India needed to win to keep the series alive. Amidst fireworks and guards of honour for Sanga, India stuck to their task with centuries from Rahul and Rahane and wickets from Mishra, Ashwin and Ishant to record their first test win in 399 days.
They didn’t have to wait quite so long for the next one. Put in on a sporting wicket, Cheteshwar Pujara, rallied the Indian ranks to put up a decent first innings score, becoming the fourth Indian opener in history to carry his bat after Gavaskar, Sehwag and Dravid. An unusually fiery Ishant picked up five wickets in the Sri Lankan first innings to give India a lead of over a hundred. Everyone chipped with the bat in the second, Ashwin and the talented Rohit Sharma getting half centuries. The Half-man Binny nearly got a half-century.
Ishant, Prasad and Chandimal butted heads.
386 to get with the series at stake.
The Sri Lankan top order fell away. 1/1 and 2/2 was a familiar scoreline. Chandimal came and went. Ishant smacked his head again and again.
Seven wickets to get on the last day with the possibility of rain.
The bowlers, having bowled superbly throughout the series, had one more task. To get past Angelo Matthews.
We fidgeted, we waited. Matthews batted on.
Kushal Perera gave him superb support before playing a Mike-Gattingesque reverse sweep straight to point. Matthews carried on to remain not out at tea. He had now batted for more than two sessions. We started to pray.
Then Ishant somehow finally sneaked a full one past him after tea. We began to believe.
Finally, when Mishra’s wrong one trapped Pradeep in front, the moment had arrived. It was 2-1 to India.
Fist-pumps. Jubilation. Scenes of joy.
Four years after that anticlimatic win over the Windies, this overseas series win feels quite different.
I bet Virat Kohli thinks so too.