Will whiff of fresh air continue to waft?

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2000, 20:00 [IST]
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Bangalore: Come Sunday, all Indian eyes will be glued to the TV sets from 12 noon to late evening. Cinema halls and other TV programmes may take the back seat as Indian cricket battles to regain centre stage.A passionate following for the game was rocked by the match-fixing scandals that hit the scene left, right and centre ever since the Delhi police unearthed the Hansie Cronje-bookie nexus in April this year. Allegations, counter allegations, emotional reactions and a resounding defeat in the Asia Cup had depressed the Indian cricket fans no end. The ethos was swirling with rumours of the match-fixing scam even as India's top three players - skipper Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble - went to seek their fortunes in the English county championship.

The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Income Tax Department in the meanwhile began their probe into the allegations of match-fixing and the resultant spin off of amassing of unaccounted wealth. While reports from both the agencies are still awaited, Indian cricket appears to be on a resurrection course with the induction of youngsters into the squad.The whiff of fresh air came as the Indian selectors decided to blood youngsters into the team. Either by choice or pressure, the Board of Control for Cricket in India were forced to keep the players whose names had cropped up with the scam away from national duty.For once, the selectors appeared to go by form rather than other extraneous factors. The results are there for all to see.

After starting slowly against the Kenyans, the Indians have scored two stunning victories to march majestically into the final of the ICC (International Cricket Council) Knock Out tournament at Nairobi.Three new caps in single match was a luxury that the country had not afforded in a long time to come. But the three - wicket-keeper Vijay Dahiya, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan - have grabbed the opportunity with both hands.The Indian team now exudes of youth and is well sobered by the experience of Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble. The combined effort of youth and experience has been fascinating cricket and all eyes will now focus on the India versus New Zealand on Sunday.New Zealand to have been in the international spectrum with one-off performances.

Never having won a major tournament, they at points of time were considered as also rans. But, New Zealand too have a lot of talent and have struck a right chord in the ongoing tournament to upset the apple cart of strong contenders Pakistan.Though a keen battle is on the cards, form and performance points to India. The Indians will have to remain alert against complacency and will have to put in the same team effort that they have shown so far against Australia and South Africa.The general tendency is to retain the "winning combination", but India may be well served by opting for an addition spinner in Sunil Joshi instead of Ajit Agarkar, who has been struggling to strike form.

The New Zealanders are known to struggle against quality spin and Joshi could well help India's cause in winning the title.One only hopes that the whiff of fresh air that has been brought about, will continue to waft and will not turn into a sour mirage.

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