New Delhi: It was not the kind of violence that occasionally erupts in this part of the country. In this case the resounding thunder emanated from the bats of two young left-handers and was hugely appreciated not only by the beleaguered populace of Guwahati but by also by the entire nation.
In the process Dinesh Mongia and Yuvraj Singh duly laid to rest the harrowing jinx that has so devastated Indian cricket in the final matches of the past so many One- day series. And the relief on the face of the Indian captain was welcome and understandable. His assertion that ultimately, Yuvraj had made the difference between the two sides was also not entirely off the mark - his abiding faith in the young man's match winning ability finally bearing fruit.
However, in the euphoria of the batting heroics of Mongia, Yuvraj and Mohammed Kaif, the excellently consistent contribution of Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh must not be overlooked. The performance of this young group coupled with improved fielding and a discernable urgency in running between wickets brought about the welcome home series victory after fifteen frustrating Limited Overs matches. However, realistically speaking the win did not come so easily as should have against a side recently whitewashed by lowly teams like England and New Zealand. Home advantage must also be considered when you are evaluating relative performance and establishing a balanced perspective.
Outplayed in the Test series - particularly in the first match - the visitors are to be applauded for their wonderful fight back, which nearly clinched them the Limited Overs series win in Hyderabad. What they lacked was a couple of quality bowlers - particularly spinners - as this would really have tested India to the tilt. What this series did do was it made it possible for India to provide some much needed rest to Srinath, Tendulkar and Kumble. It also brought to the fore some youngsters who had hitherto failed to do justice to their obvious talents.
And ironically, in doing this, these youngsters have complicated the task of the selectors who sit on Thursday to select the teams for the tour of West Indies. Obviously the established (and duly rested) stalwarts must affect a comeback but the youngsters who have done well in the Limited Overs series must not be overlooked categorising them essentially as One-day specialists. We have argued earlier that Kaif and Yuvraj should now be considered equally adept in both forms of the game. Their newly found confidence and form must be fully exploited and not made to rust till another series in the distant future.
Similarly, Dinesh Mongia must be retained as a possible Test opener now that he appears to be enjoying the role and has in fact more than proved his credentials. Shiv Sunder Das naturally is the first choice opener. Than, if a second wicket- keeper is considered necessary, Deep Das Gupta comes in also filling the role of a possible Test match opener. Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dravid and Ganguly form the middle order. But the late charge of Yuvraj, Mongia and Kaif jeopardise Laxman's place in the side. His lack of mobility and inability in the several opportunities given him, to produce substantial and consistent scores will certainly weigh heavily against his inclusion.
The fast bowling should have the rejuvenated Zaheer Khan to form an excellent opening partnership with Srinath where as Agarkar's recent performances almost qualify him as a more than useful all-rounder - his bowling of course remained his forte. In the all-rounder's role, Bangar unfortunately has failed to impress with his bowling though he has not exactly let his supporters down whenever given an opportunity to bat. Ratra is the number one wicket-keeper with Deep Das Gupta standing by, if needed. Nehra's inexplicable loss of fitness and form is a shame as it looked as if he was coming along so promisingly not so long ago. To supplement Kumble and Harbhajan I should like to persist with Murali Kartik as I believe he will deliver sooner than later and because the pitches in West Indies, barring a couple of venues, will largely suit spinners.
So my team will look as follows: Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Shiv Sunder Das, Dinesh Mongia, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Ajay Ratra, Javagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Anil Kumble, Deep Dasgupta.
The beauty about it is that almost all of them, except perhaps Das and Das Gupta, could continue on with the tour once the Test series gets over as they are multipurpose players, a much needed virtue in the prevailing cricketing scenario.