Already in the final, India has done really splendidly and Saurav and his men deserve kudos for the way they have gone about the task at hand. Cynics would still say that India has just beaten a depleted England in the first match convincingly and nearly made a hash on both the occasions it faced Sri Lanka!
Agreed that India did huff and puff before finally brushing aside the challenge of the islanders on both the occasions, but then one should not forget that other side is competing equally hard and in contests like these, invariably there will be tensions on occasions, even when the task on hand seems to be quite simple to accomplish.
There are many positives as far as the Indian team is concerned. The Indians seem to have started their campaign towards a good showing in the World Cup 2003, right from their One-day series against the Windies.
Experimenting with Rahul Dravid as the wicket-keeper has done wonders to the composition of the Indian XI and in a way, right at the moment, India seems to be suffering from an embarrassment of riches.
So much so that even with Rahul providing an additional slot for either a batsman or a bowler, poor V V S Laxman still can't make it to the playing 11, in spite of being the most successful Indian batsman against the West Indians in the recently concluded Test series there.
It is indeed heartening to see Rahul finally doing justice to the immense talent that he possesses by really playing positive cricket, right from the moment he stepped into the crease in England.
Again, he can afford the luxury of being a positive player only because of the fact that his shouldering the additional responsibility as a wicket-keeper has ensured that India's powerful batting line-up has got lengthened now!
In today's scenario, the Indian innings is launched by two belligerent assassins called Virender Sehwag and Saurav Ganguly, followed by a very determined and focused Dinesh Mongia, who can graft and attack at the same time. Fall of second wicket invites to the crease that scourge of bowlers called Sachin Tendulkar.
And on a really bad day, if third wicket too falls early, Rahul has the luxury to still walk in with a comfortable feeling that he will still be followed by Yuvraj Singh as well as Mohammad Kaif. No wonder, he has suddenly started playing the positive game that his critics always said he was incapable of playing and his fans always yearned for from him!
The best thing about the Indian showing in the NatWest series so far is that Indians are really clicking as a team. Sachin played an unbeaten innings of 105 against the English side in the second match between the two finalists now.
It was an innings that every budding cricketer as well as international cricketer must watch to learn how a master batsman grafts, accelerates and finally simply blows away the opposition. All in the course of one innings!
Unfortunately, the match was rained off, with India decidedly being in the position of strength when the drizzle turned into a downpour. The other three victories only contained one vital knock of 49 from the little master against the Sri Lankans.
In every match one or the other player contributed a valuable knock or an all important bowling spell. In spite of Ganguly getting dismissed the first ball against England and then Sehwag emulating the 'feat' against Sri Lanka in the last match, both of them always look capable of coming good in the very next match.
Dinesh Mongia is struggling a bit but he surely has it in him to make it. Sachin is in good nick and Rahul and Yuvraj have set themselves nicely for the man-of-the- series honour, at this stage of the tournament. This certainly augurs well for the Indians and after a long time, one gets reminded of the hey days of 1983, when the Indians really gelled together as a team, to bring glory to themselves and their country.
On the bowling front too, Ajit Agarkar, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan seem to be settling into a nice groove, although Zaheer needs to tighten up a bit during the opening spells. Ajit Agarkar, I have always believed to be one of the most talented fast medium bowlers that India has and when in rhythm, can be quite a handful for any batsman.
One thing, the Indians definitely need to do is to put in place a policy of rotation of players, so that just 11 players are not put to too much stress. To be a good One- day side, a team needs 14 quality players, who are all well settled and confident to step in on any given day.
In the name of not disturbing the winning combination, the medium pacers are the ones who are most likely to get stressed or injured and suddenly we might have a situation that on an all important final, suddenly you have to put, say young Tinu Yohannan in front a marauding Trescothick and belligerent Nick Knight!
Hopefully, the Indian think tank keeps this in mind and brings in V V S Laxman and Tinu Yohannan into the side in the next two games. In fact to avoid giving Englishmen any more practice against Kumble before the final, the team would do well to consider bringing in Harbhajan in their last inconsequential match against England.