Indians leave a mark of their own

Written by: Sunil Vasudeva
Published: Tuesday, April 20, 2004, 13:43 [IST]
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Full marks for India's triumph over Pakistan! The Indians proved me wrong in that they did not forget the lessons learned Down Under! Congratulations for a job well done! It is not easy playing under sweltering temperatures; however, the Indian team was a bunch of "cool "customers as they overcame the heat and the Pakistani challenge in the final Test.

There were many high points in the series that the Indians did well to relish. First and foremost was the hospitality of the gracious Pakistani hosts. The Indian players were well taken care of, President Musharraf making sure all things were in good and secure order for his visitors. Thank you Mr President. Even the people in the country, all the way from the streets to the airports, were kind not only to the visiting players, but also even to their neighbouring fans who were treated to gracious hospitality.

I remember the first match I ever attended between these two countries in the 1980s. It was in the Middle East and let me tell you the atmosphere there was a stark contrast from what transpired in the current series. Back then, there was a clear demarcation line between the Indian and Pakistani fans, with tight security in between! Instead of egging their team on, the Pakistani crowds were busy jeering the Indian players, taunting them with mouthed slogans, one of which was "Kapil Dev Kaala Hai - Mohsin Khan Kaa Saala Hai ". (Since Indian film actress Reena Roy was Mohsin Khan's wife then) The Indian fans were not less guilty either.

However, the atmosphere in the current series showed how much people have matured and just grown up!

One event that will stand out in my mind is when Inzamam walked back to the pavilion after getting an edge off Balaji into Patel's gloves even though umpire Koertzen's finger was not up! Way to go Inzamam! What sportsmanship! All this when Pakistan was battling to save the third Test and avoid an innings defeat! What maturity shown by the man! Also, big thanks to Imran Khan for his gracious compliments on the Indian performance.

It is indeed a pity that the Bangladesh tour has been cancelled in favour of an ODI series coming up. A tour of Bangladesh with two Tests could have been a good build-up to the Aussie visit. I know the Indian team deserves a good break. My thought is this: England sits above India in the ICC Test Championship ranking without having beaten them either at home or abroad! What put them above India I believe is their Bangladesh tour where they won both Tests!

Now if India tours Bangladesh and achieves the same result they would leapfrog into the third spot in the ICC Test rankings. That would be just! India beat the Aussies in India and tied the series Down Under. Was England able to achieve both feats against the Aussies? Yet, they are sitting pretty, above the Indians!

The Indians don't have to play as many ODIs in Bangladesh, or if they have to, then resort to the measures the Aussies adopt for their ODI team which is markedly different in makeup than the Test squad. Could this avenue perhaps be investigated?

Yet, the Indians have made their own mark. They are the only team in the ICC rankings that have given the number one side a run for their money and even had them watching the clock! How many of the other teams can boast that feat? The Indians have shown that they can score 300s with Sehwag leading the way and Dravid almost emulating him in the Rawalpindi Test. Anil Kumble is all set to become the second Indian bowler and the third spinner to cross the 400-wicket mark. What a fitting tribute to a man who has struggled with bouts of self-doubt!

Irfan Pathan and Laxmipathy Balaji (neither of express pace) showed great promise not only to learn, but also to go from strength to strength. At the rate they are going, India may have a pace quartet (Ashish and Zaheer the other two), and have selection woes again once Harbhajan comes back!

That folks, is the mark of improvement! A selection committee that was once faced with a dearth of talent to pick from now have their cups of selection overflowing with all kinds of options. Yuvraj Singh with his performance in Pakistan has made the selectors job only tougher in the coming seasons. Keep up the good work India! You've impressed many of your doubters! That is truly a mark of improvement!

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