good deed or fortune India have one outstanding captain following
another; each well suited for the situation confronting Indian
Many players have stood out for India in this one-day triumph but no
one more than Rahul Dravid. He has combined steel with aggression and
he has been his own man. Those who feared that Dravid's innate
goodness might make him soft, have been proved wrong.
Sourav Ganguly worked very well with youngsters. He did so in a
flamboyant big brotherly style and made uncertain minds feel at home
on the big stage. He wasn't a method person but he rallied troops
outstandingly and they followed him. Dravid is a lot more understated,
his aggression is less visible, more perceived. He inspires respect
with deeds, willing to take the tough job and in doing so, stating his
case. Barry Richards once said of Ian Chappell "He would never ask
anyone to do something he wouldn't do himself" and Dravid comes from
that school. I suspect Dravid's troops march alongside him. It's more
"saathi haath badhaana saathi re"[reach out my friend] rather than "chalo
veer jawaano"[come along brave young men]. Each has its merits.
A good side finds the man for the moment; each believing that he can
win a game rather than watch someone else do it as it happens in
individual dominated teams. Indeed that is the strength of this side
and I think a vision is slowly taking shape. Dhoni on one day, Yuvraj
on another and now this young man Suresh Raina of whom much more lies
undiscovered. Each is seizing the opportunity that presents itself and
that can only come from self-belief. India might still have some
distance to cover in test cricket but the projections in one-day
cricket are looking good. It is a very promising mid-cap stock at the
The key to a good one-day side lies in the combination of players; not
great solo artists but ensemble musicians each capable of playing a
great note but also of contributing to the overall score. Australia
can do that consistently, England under certain conditions and
Pakistan devastatingly so when the air is right. India are getting
there too for against a good side they are able to play eight batsmen
and four bowlers.
India are also discovering the great strengths of flexibility. If
anyone can play anywhere then players aren't missed as much when they
have to sit out. So Pathan can bat at number three or eight, Dhoni at
four or seven and Dravid anywhere. It also means that one some days
India can play seven batsmen and five bowlers, which is a combination
that most teams dream of.
To achieve that a team needs three all-rounders; a wicket keeper who
can bat, a ten overs man who can bat in the top seven and a batsman in
the top five capable of giving five overs a game consistently. India
are a bit thin in category three at the moment and that is where
Sachin Tendulkar has played such a key role in the last two games.
By bowling nineteen overs in two games for two wickets and at just
over four an over, Tendulkar has allowed India to play Raina. A
floater is a privilege few teams are allowed but Tendulkar cannot do
this all the time. And that is why the key to India taking the next
step ahead lies with Virender Sehwag, the bowler.
If Sehwag can take his bowling one step up, it has fallen two paces
behind in the last year, India could field four seamers if the
situation demands. And if they are confronted with a dry surface, he
can give Harbhajan much needed support. Then with Tendulkar capable of
bowling either slow spin or seam up, India will have a bowling attack
for any surface. Indeed four seamers seems to be the way to go on most
days and India can either do so with Harbhajan playing for Raina or
indeed not playing at all; a lateral thought many might not have
considered six months ago.
But every thought needs suitable action. And that means a team must
possess players with the skills to carry out plans. All along India
could never play five bowlers even if that was the most obvious plan
because it left the batting too thin, not to speak of a makeshift
keeper. Now, on most days, India can. If they believe four bowlers
will do, it gives them great strength down the order with the bat.
It doesn't mean India will win every game they play, it means they
give themselves the best possible chance of doing that.
But the main reason India are looking smart is that they are fielding
smart. Kaif, Yuvraj and Raina are electric, Dravid has excellent
hands, Pathan and Agarkar have strong arms and quick legs and Dhoni is
getting better. India, once again, have the grammar right.
Dravid and Chappell have the right men in the right places. Now they
need to find consistency if they seek to set up base camp two on the
way to Everest.