India favourites to win the One-day series

Written by: Anil Kumble
Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2004, 13:33 [IST]
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India started favourites in this Samsung Cup and now going into the final game on Wednesday, they are once again favourites to win the trophy.

The Indian skipper and the coach would stress the importance of this final not just from an opportunity to win a silverware for all the efforts and the planning that has gone into this series but also the psychological advantage this Indian team would gain over their opponents going into a very important Test series.

Sourav Ganguly will be looking for an encore from his bowlers in the final game. Irfan Pathan hopefully will once again give us early breakthroughs, which has been a feature of his still nascent career. L Balaji and Zaheer Khan have come on well going into the final match and they can make it easier for Murali Kartik and the other bowlers to follow. As scoring runs is all about partnerships, so is bowling in tandem to take wickets and restrict run-making.

In the first of the double-header in Lahore on Sunday, this Indian team showed the ability to bounce back when chips were down. The manner in which we achieved the target of 294 runs was even more pleasing. It was a target that required almost six runs an over from the start. Although, we lost early wickets, our batsmen ensured that the run-rate was kept up.

This target also required that our batsmen had to bat through the 50 overs. In the end, we won quite convincingly with five overs to spare. It required a record sixth- wicket partnership between Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif to ensure the series is still alive.

How often have we witnessed Rahul Dravid holding one end up and achieving a victory for India? Since his first class debut for Karnataka as an 18-year-old, he has always put a heavy price on his wicket, be it any match. He is a thorough professional in his preparation and his record at the international level is ample proof of it. Over a period of time, he has grown in stature.

Sehwag, Yuvraj and Kaif have added a new dimension to the Indian batting not just by their youth and exuberance but also in their maturity and sense of responsibility. They are letting themselves be counted. Kaif has shown a cool head in the past in pressure situations and it was again in evidence on Sunday night. He played a mature innings to take India home. The fielding standards in the team have risen due to the likes of Kaif and Yuvraj and both compliment well to lift the spirit of the side.

VVS Laxman and Ganguly will be keen to join the party in this run feast on Wednesday after they briefly showed us their capabilities on Sunday.

The Pakistanis with this defeat will come hard at the Indians and their skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq will once again be the key. Indian bowlers kept a tight leash on the Pakistan batsmen and were rewarded well, but they would be disappointed they let them off the hook after restricting them in the early overs. This was mainly due to Inzamam's excellent batting. The Pakistan batting revolves heavily around their skipper and this fact will be a point of discussion in the Indian camp.

The other dangerous batsmen in this series so far have been Yasir Hameed and Abdul Razzaq. I was impressed with the line our bowlers bowled to Hameed, which ultimately brought about his downfall.

The final would be another thrilling contest and so far, in this series cricket has been enthralling and exhilarating. The crowds have been great and this has been one factor that has stood out!

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