Growing up in the 70s and 80s, it wasn't too easy being an Indian fan. While we had our superstars, and our moments of greatness, we simply seemed incapable of consistently dominating everyone we faced. Especially bad were our struggles in LOI cricket, which demanded aggression, athleticism and agility that very few of our guys had in abundance. And then came the 90s, most of which I missed. Again, but for a few shining stars, we didn't have the firepower to strike fear in the hearts of our opponents, especially the boorish, aggressive, dominating Australians.
Fast forward to today and it is exceedingly heartening to see how complete Indian cricket actually is. Some of it has to do with other teams not being as good as they were, but there is no denying that we are fighting-fit unit. Just take these past several months. We have played consistently good cricket across formats - dominating the Windies, demolishing the Kiwis and putting the Poms in their place. We have specialist teams for each format, and have multiple guys who are the best in the world in their roles. We are aggressive and - for the most part - fit and athletic. We also don't take crap or back off from other teams' aggression. But, most of all, we seem to have incredible bench strength - there is a talented group of newer guys who seamlessly slide into the roles of injured seniors - plug and play. No Shami? No problem. Plug Bhuvi in. No Ashwin and Jaddu? No problem. Yuz to the rescue. No Rohit Sharma? Whatever. Let's put in the guy who can score a triple hundred. Saha is hurt? Bring in Parthiv - yeah, his keeping is suspect, but boy did he bat us into good positions when needed! Need all-rounders? Ashwin in tests, Pandya in LOIs. Need older guys to step in and carry the load - Yuvi and Raina are doing it. We don't depend on 1 or 2 super stars, but each guy stands up and performs when his number is called. And don't forget Kedar Jadhav who is just getting started, and Rishabh Pant who hasn't even had a go yet :-)!!
This team also seems to be genuinely having fun. I know, I know, it's easy to have fun while you're winning. But it's also easy to win when you're having fun, and the synergism between enjoyment and winning is truly showing. No one seems insecure; the guys seem to know that, although the competition for each position is hot, they will be given a fair run before being replaced. There is an air of confidence.
Two things struck me the most: (1) the genuine team-spirit that Dhoni and Kohli displayed during the ODIs and T20s. While some here were complaining about Kohli just being a rubber-stamp guy etc., it simply didn't seem that way to me. It appeared that MSD was genuinely helping out with the field, especially when VK was away from the action because he placed himself at crucial long-off/long-on spots, and that VK was genuinely seeking advice from MSD. (2) VK's true leadership in deflecting praise away from himself for successful tactical moves, and the true joy he seems to derive from the individual success of each person on the team!
This is in complete contrast to my early days as a fan, when it was always egos clashing: Gavaskar vs. Kapil Dev, Kapil Dev vs. Prabhakar, and of course Azharuddin vs. integrity. I am thoroughly enjoying watching this Indian team play together - as a unit, for the common purpose of winning - koi hum se jeet na paave chale chalo chale chalo!!