India on a roll

S. DINAKAR

It was a splendid run for India in the Videocon Cup.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

THE script had a perfect conclusion for Team India. Rahul Dravid scored the winning runs in Vadodara and then lifted his arms up in triumph. A display of emotion it was from a modest man of remarkable achievements.

India had steamrollered the Lankans 6-1 in the Videocon ODI series and Dravid was there at the end of a happy tale. He was the skipper and he was in control.

A smile of contentment adorned Greg Chappell's visage. His methods had the stamp of conviction. His confidence stemmed from self-belief.

This was a very different Indian team. A side that was a buzzing blend of the seniors and the new entrants. If the era of the superstars actually ends, the series will go down as a landmark one in the Indian cricket history.

The Board was quick to acknowledge Team India's outstanding feat. The announcement of Rs. 50 lakhs bonus for the team was a fitting reward for commitment and solidarity.

Irfan Pathan revelled on his home pitch and was rightly adjudged the Man of the Match.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Dravid held aloft the trophy and the Indian camp was an ocean of smiles.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni walked up to receive the Man of the Series prize. He had been sensational in the series, not just striking the ball with power and precision but displaying the temperament of a seasoned campaigner.

His 73-ball 80 at the IPCL ground had been a healthy mix of common sense batting and blazing aggression. When the Indians faced a minor pressure situation he collected runs cleverly through nudges, glides, pushes and the occasional drives.

And the home boy, Irfan Pathan, lived a childhood, pocketing the Man of the Match award in his maiden international match in Vadodara. His parents watched from the stands. They must have been proud.

For Marvan Atapattu and his men, the series was a disaster. Mentally, the Lankans took a pounding. Strategically, they were outmanoeuvred.

They pressed hard at the IPCL ground, but the Indians found the right answers. A total of 244 was never going to be enough.

M.S. Dhoni, as usual, went hammer and tongs in Vadodara. The flamboyant batsman won the Man of the Series trophy.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

This had been an ordinary series for Atapattu as captain and his decision to bat proved a mistake. There was seam movement for the pacemen; the morning dew was an added advantage for the bowlers. Dravid later said he would have opted to field.

The Lankans fell in a heap — the top order was gone in a hurry and the Indians had made serious inroads into the middle order. At 85 for five, the contest seemed headed for an early conclusion.

Irfan Pathan sent down a zestful spell with the new ball, his bowling adorned by trademark movement. The nippy Ajit Agarkar took the ball away from the right-hander, brought the odd one back.

Then rookie paceman Rudra Pratap Singh bowled with maturity beyond his years. The left-armer is essentially a seam bowler, but there were occasions in his spell of ten overs — Dravid chose to bowl him out — when he swung it around.

He worked up reasonable pace maintaining control over his length and direction. He has a fair way to travel yet, but the ingredients appear to be right in this well-built youngster.

The Lankans recovered through a 133-run partnership for the sixth wicket between Russell Arnold (68) and Atapattu (59).

The left-right combination got things moving for Sri Lanka. Arnold's was an impressive knock. He innovated brilliantly on the leg-side and swept left-arm spinner Murali Kartik out of the attack.

Arnold is rated highly by the Lankan team-management. An astute `finisher', the southpaw spent time in the wilderness before forcing his way back. His career appears to be on the road again.

Atapattu drove fluently, flicked with panache and the Sri Lankan innings seemed to be picking up steam when Pathan got the crowd roaring with a double strike. The Indians did well in the end-overs to restrict Lanka to a total below 250. The fielding was once again sharp although Mohammed Kaif, uncharacteristically, put down a skier.

The target well within their reach, the Indians were off to a brilliant start with Virender Sehwag drilling holes through the infield. The Delhi dasher once again failed to consolidate, but his cameo provided the side with momentum.

The Indians continued to rattle up runs at a brisk pace. If Pathan had tormented the Lankans as a pinch hitter in the first game, he walked in at No 3. in the last match to a noisy reception from the crowd.

The left-hander put together a blistering 35, hitting through the line, cover-driving Nuwan Zoysa for a stunning six. Talking about Indian experiments at the different slots during the series, Dravid said, "I think it is a challenge for people to perform in different roles, for batsmen to bat at different positions, for bowlers to bowl at different times."

Pathan eventually fell to a stupendous catch by Mahela Jayawardene who sprinted from mid-on to long-on before closing his hands around the skier following a lunge forward.

Sachin Tendulkar missed out on a bigger score but there were a couple of glorious off-side strokes in his 39 that pointed towards another three figure knock in the not too distant future.

There was more than a hint of double pace in the pitch, but the Lankan bowling, once again without the injured off-spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan, failed to exploit the conditions.

Dilhara Fernando produced a scorching spell — his figures in the game do his bowling little justice — but the Lankans had to reckon with the depth of Indian batting.

When a minor crisis loomed after Mohammed Kaif missed a flick to be castled, Dravid's solidity and Dhoni's enterprise ensured that the Indians finished on a rousing note.

Dravid said, "We had different players performing in different games. The confidence has been high and a number of youngsters have come through."

The Indian victory was a tribute to the energy of the youth and the resilience of the experienced. It was a heady triumph.

The scores

Seventh ODI, November 12 2005, India won by five wickets. Man of the Match: Irfan Pathan. Player of the Series: M. S. Dhoni.

Sri Lanka: T. T Samaraweera c Harbhajan Singh b Agarkar 6; W. U. Tharanga c Dravid b Pathan 6; K. C. Sangakkara c Yuvraj Singh b R. P. Singh 32; M. Jayawardene c Kartik b R. P. Singh 20; M. S. Atapattu c Harbhajan Singh b Pathan 59; T. M. Dilshan c Dhoni b R. P. Singh 4; R. P. Arnold c Harbhajan Singh b Pathan 68; L. D. Dilhara b Agarkar 5; C. Vaas c Yuvraj Singh b Kartik 11; U. Chandana (not out) 4; Extras (lb 4, w 23, nb 2) 29;Total (9 wickets, 50 overs) 244.

Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-20, 3-77, 4-80, 5-85, 6-218, 7-218, 8-227, 9-244.

India bowling: Pathan 10-1-38-3; Agarkar 10-1-47-2; R. P. Singh 10-2-33-3; Harbhajan Singh 10-1-45-0; Kartik 7-0-53-1; Sehwag 3-0-24-0.

India: V. Sehwag c Sangakkara b Fernando 35; S. Tendulkar c & b Zoysa 39; I. Pathan c Jayawardene b Zoysa 35; M. S. Dhoni c sub (Samaraweera) b Chandana 80; M. Kaif b Dilhara 13; R. Dravid (not out) 31; Yuvraj Singh (not out) 0; Extras (lb 3, w 1, nb 8); 12;Total (five wickets, 39.3 overs) 245.

Fall of wickets: 1-53, 2-109,3-115, 4-157,5-240.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 9.3-1-51-0; Fernando 10-1-72-1; Zoysa 7-0-47-2; Dilhara 5-0-29-1; Chandana 6-0-32-1; Dilshan 2-0-11-0.

Sri Lanka full substitute: Zoysa (Samaraweera, India innings, 6.1 ov).

India full substitute: Raina (Singh, Sri Lanka innings, 32.0 ov).