Over most of the post '83 World-Cup victory years, India always had exceptional talent in her cricket team. Exceptional individuals, that is. Right from Azhar to Dravid, from the rock-steady Anil Kumble to the no-adjectives-required Tendulkar and the brilliant Yuvi, there have been players that made oppositions shiver.
However, it hasn't been since Kapil's Devils that we've had a team doing so well, so consistently as a unit. Signs were evident when a ridiculously young team with little known individuals came together as a unit to win the 2007 T20 World Cup. The nature, vintage and duration of that version of the sport kept many from applying the 'best team' label in a hurry.
The subsequent domination in all forms of the game - one-dayers and T20's included makes one think - is this the team that can win the elusive ODI World Cup? It's a prize that has lost much of its sheen now with a new, younger form of the sport grabbing headlines, but it's something we have looked forward to for too long. And we have a leader as charismatic as the one that led us from obscurity to that World Cup victory more than a quarter of a century ago. A leader that embodies heart, poise, class and inspiration.
Tendlya himself has claimed this to be the 'best batting line-up' he has been part of. It's quite a statement, considering his career spans more than two decades of modern Indian cricket. Dwell on what he says for a moment though. He doesn't mean that every player 'on paper' is better than every player we've ever had. God knows we've had one too many paper tiger line-ups in the past - star-studded batting rosters that failed as a team; brilliant individual performances that led to amazing averages but not so amazing winning percentages. Now things have changed. This line-up plays with a single goal - to win matches. Farming the strike, letting the team run rate slip for personal achievement is understood to be unacceptable. That fact in itself qualifies this line-up to be the best in a long while.
It didn't happen overnight though. There was a stage where we hadn't won a single test series out of the sub-continent for a long time. The shirt-lassoing Dada's devils took up that challenge - won tests starting from Zimbabwe right up to Australia, and a few series as well. They almost reached the summit of what is now the second-shortest form of cricket in 2003, and I remember feeling much like I do today when India wins its first Test Series in NZ in over 30 years. Only today, one feels that there is no Achilles' heel. No unbeatable Australia. We may have taken home the first T20 World Cup, but winning the ODI World Cup will be the culmination of a dream that two generations of cricket fans will savor. There's never been a better time.