Indians played like champions throughout the tournament and during the course of their progress to the final totally demolished and outplayed England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and New Zealand. The present Indian team is a very balanced outfit and the team members compliment each other very nicely indeed.
John Wright, Andrew Leipus and Adrian Leroux have done a wonderful job of ensuring that India came up with such a fit and motivated squad for the World Cup. The trio deserves all the praise for the simple reason that no other International team played even 70 per cent of what the Indian cricket team had to in the last one year or so.
Just recall how India had to play England at home, leave for a long tour of West Indies, follow it up with another gruelling trip to England. As if this was not enough, the team had to leave within a week of returning from England for the ICC Champions trophy in Sri Lanka. They excelled in England as well as Sri Lanka and had to run into West Indians at home once again.
Hardly had the ordeal got over, they had to pack their bags to leave for the disastrous trip of New Zealand. Lesser mortals would have crumbled by the time the World Cup 2003 began but it is a tribute to the Indian team members, their coach and their trainers that they coasted through the entire World Cup remaining charged, motivated and fully fit throughout.
At times the men who matter in the Indian cricket seem to indicate that they have an agenda of their own and every time the Indian team has slipped up a bit, daggers have been drawn out for John Wright's head.
For the genuine, long term and lasting benefit of the Indian cricket it is vital that a hard working professional like John is retained for at least one more term so that the regimen and work ethic instilled into the Indian team becomes a habit with the players representing the country at the highest level as well as the benchmark for the successors.
After Kenya's dream run in the World Cup 2003, certain 'have been' players have already started making dangerous noises that when we have talents like Sandeep Patil who can take even a team like Kenya to the semi-finals of a World Cup why should we pay hefty amounts to the 'phoren' coaches, physios and trainers!
Mr Dalmiya and his advisors would do well to realise that the present Indian team has really closed the gap with professional teams like Australia and South Africa when it comes to fitness of individuals and the never say die attitude of players is concerned. We need the trinity of John, Andrew and Adrian for a few more years' at least.
Looking back at the World Cup final itself, one got the impression that the occasion got to the bowlers and after a splendid showing throughout the tournament, they just lost it on the all important day for India. It would not be out of place to recall that during the last Test series between India and South Africa a couple of seasons back, the trio of Srinath, Zaheer and Nehra, in spite of all the promise, blew it up for India match after match because of their erratic and wayward bowling and weakness at the all important moments.
March 23, 2003, tragically for India, saw them returning to their old ways and enabled Australia to post its highest ever total in any ODI! Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting, Martyn and Mr Extras all made merry and ensured that the likes of Lehmann, Symonds and Bevan were not even required to bat!
Manfully though the Indian batsmen tried, a massive target of 360 on a big occasion like a World Cup final proved way beyond their reach. One is tempted to dabble a bit into the Ifs & Buts and if only Indian bowlers had bowled a little more imaginatively, on this most magnificent Wanderers pitch, even a total of 300 might have been attainable by the never say die team that India most certainly had in this tournament.
Indian team has everything to gain by looking to the future with a positive outlook. Hopefully the selectors will not tinker with the present team composition by needless chopping and churnings. India's next challenge is the triangular series in Dhaka in April and perhaps it would be a good idea not to test the limits as far as Dravid is concerned and he should be retained on the subcontinent pitches purely as a batsman.
And lastly Saurav and his boys would do well to realise that the average Indian cricket fans possess a lot more common sense then some experts usually credit them with. They get hurt and sulk when the Indian cricket team loses but never really lose their cool as long as they see the team putting a semblance of a fight.
The outbursts only become a crescendo when they see the team coming up with an insipid and spineless performance. The two defeats to Australia during the World Cup 2003 and two entirely different types of reactions of the same fans conclusively prove the point.