GOOD INVESTMENT IN YOUTH

THE VICTORIOUS INDIAN team-PICS.R.V. MOORTHY

The 5-1 verdict was a flattering result for India, which had a few areas of concern in the seven-match series. But the shortcomings were forgotten in the deserving celebrations for Dravid and his boys for a mission well accomplished. The triumph does augur well for Indian cricket, writes Vijay Lokapally.

The triumph at Indore was a definite statement of the success of a series of experiments by the Indian team management. The 5-1 series verdict in India's favour established the credentials of some of the players wanting to secure a place for themselves and also opened up new avenues to be explored in the quest for the World Cup.

The confidence that marked Robin Uthappa's debut performance; the arrival of S. Sreesanth as a bowler with the right aptitude; the rise of Yuvraj Singh as a premier batsman; the consistency that dictates Suresh Raina's progress; and finally the commendable leadership qualities of Rahul Dravid. These were the major gains for India from the authoritative show at the MPCA Stadium.

The match as such was not expected to raise any competitive flavour, what with England again resting Andrew Flintoff and India too opting to keep out regulars like Virender Sehwag, Mohammad Kaif and Harbhajan Singh.

It is another matter that Sehwag and Kaif were rested due to their poor run with the bat. In Harbhajan's case, the off-spinner was ruled out due to a pain in his bowling forearm.

The essence of youth was very evident in the manner in which India fashioned this victory. On an unresponsive pitch, Sreesanth recorded a career-best six-wicket haul in only his 13th one-day match. His effort was matched later by Uthappa, who crafted a brilliant innings in the company of Dravid. The skipper too, produced a refreshingly attacking knock.

The venue has a tradition for entertainment. The Holkars had promoted cricket in this town with legends like C. K. Nayudu and Mushtaq Ali winning the hearts of the people with their aesthetic batsmanship. "Our aim has been to give the best of facilities because cricket is of paramount interest for us. We owe it to the paying public because they are the ones who keep the game going," said the MPCA secretary and National selector Sanjay Jagdale.

Sreesanth enlists Md. Kaif's assistance to enjoy his Man of the Match award.-

The stadium, in the heart of the city, had been a dream project for Jagdale, who grew up playing at the Nehru Stadium and the CCI Club, where the players and the coaches performed the duties of the groundstaff.

This excellent grooming has helped Jagdale understand the needs of modern day cricketers and the compact MPCA Stadium inspired the Indian team to give its best.

On the eve of the match, there were apprehensions regarding the pitch but Jagdale was confident. "You will have a good game of cricket," he had said. His views were supported by Dravid, who observed that it was a "good pitch." Credit to Samandar Singh Chauhan, the affable curator who worked tirelessly to create a decent surface for the one-day match.

The audience was treated to some entertainment by both the teams. Kevin Pietersen led the charge with a blazing knock but as is his wont, he cast his wicket away when in full swing. Pietersen's dismissal was crucial to India's plans since he was in complete command.

England set a target of 289, but it lacked the bowling to put pressure on the Indian batsmen. Uthappa and Dravid set the tempo with an electrifying start of 166 and this swung the match India's way.

And then the stage was dominated by `Man of the Series' Yuvraj and the gifted Raina, their association giving England little hopes of another consolation win at the end of a depressing fortnight.

The emphasis on youth paid off for India as England continued to play poor cricket. The absence of Flintoff meant extra pressure on Andrew Strauss and Pietersen. The thrust in the middle overs from Collingwood gave England a few options, but then it was never going to test the Indians, who backed themselves to win the contest on the strength of the youth brigade.

Yuvraj Singh the Man of the Series.-

In a last-over finish that created artificial excitement, India signed off in style through the exuberance of Yuvraj with Raina having got out on the doorstep of victory.

The two emerged as the mainstay of India's middle order even as Sreesanth looks to become a promising new ball partner for Irfan Pathan. The left-armer was a consistent performer with the ball along with Ramesh Powar.

The 5-1 verdict was a flattering result for India, which had a few areas of concern in the seven-match series. But the shortcomings were forgotten in the deserving celebrations for Dravid and his boys for a mission well accomplished. The triumph does augur well for Indian cricket.

THE SCORES

7th ODI, India v England, Indore, April 15, 2006.

England: A. Strauss c Kaarthick b Sreesanth 25; I. Bell (run out) 32; M. Prior c Pathan b Sreesanth 2; K. Pietersen c Uthappa b Yuvraj 64; P. Collingwood c R. P. Singh b Pathan 64; G. Jones c Kaarthick b Sreesanth 53; I. Blackwell c Raina b Sreesanth 11; L. Plunkett c V. R. V. Singh b Sreesanth 6; Kabir Ali c Venugopal Rao b Pathan 1; S. Mahmood c V. R. V. Singh b Sreesanth 9; J. Anderson (not out) 0; Extras (lb-4, w-8, nb-9) 21. Total (in 50 overs) 288.

Fall of wkts: 1-43, 2-47, 3-110, 4-165, 5-257, 6-267, 7-274, 8-277, 9-288.

India bowling: Pathan 10-1-44-2; Sreesanth 10-1-55-6; R. P. Singh 7-0-44-0; V. R. V. Singh 7-0-72-0; Powar 9-1-38-0; Yuvraj 7-0-31-1.

India: R. Uthappa (run out) 86; R. Dravid lbw b Mahmood 69; Yuvraj (not out) 63; S. Raina b Ali 53; I. Pathan (not out) 1; Extras (lb-5, w-8, nb-4) 17. Total (for three wkts., in 49.1 overs) 289.

Fall of wkts: 1-166, 2-166, 3-281.

England bowling: Anderson 8.1-0-67-0; Mahmood 10-0-61-1; Plunkett 10-0-40-0; Kabir Ali 8-0-47-1; Blackwell 10-0-51-0; Collingwood 3-0-18-0.