On Monday evening, having become only the third captain to lead India to victory over England in England, Rahul Dravid was the laughing leader, his accustomed stolid features breaking into a grin at every opportunity, his usually dry responses touched by wit directed at himself.
<b1>Seventy-five years after they played their first Test and two days before the 60th anniversary of the country’s independence, India won the inaugural Pataudi Trophy by drawing the last Test at The Oval.
Typically, interacting with the media, Dravid called it a ‘team effort’, and said he looked forward to more such wins that came without centuries from him or Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.
How does it feel to become the first man since Kapil Dev to win a series here for India?
I feel very proud for the whole team. It’s not often it’s happened, and I could not be prouder as a captain for having led this very fine team. Beating England at home, where they have been so strong over the last six-seven years, gives us a lot of satisfaction.
Was 1-0 a fair result?
I think so. England dominated the first Test and we dominated the next two. We played better cricket at critical moments.
You won without a coach.
But we had Venkatesh Prasad, Robin Singh and Greg King, who helped the boys prepare, and Mr Borde provided us with his advice. We had a great backroom staff and though we may not have had a head coach, we had some great guidance.
Disappointed at not making it 2-0?
No, not really. We thought we gave ourselves the best chance to win 2-0. Everyone put in a great effort, gave all I could have asked for. We played a great series and we’ll take this result.
You think the decision to not enforce the follow-on was wise?
There will be different opinions on what’s wise and what’s not. But as captain, I know my players well. We played the same bowling attack right through the series and they have put in a lot of workload. Yes, people would have wanted us to enforce the follow-on. If I were sitting in a living room, I may have said the same. But as captain, I get a pulse of the feeling of the boys, how much I can push them. I have to back my judgment.
Was Kolkata 2001, when you famously beat Australia, in the back of your mind?
Yes, but it was a small factor, not really a major one. You do look at it, and say you’d prefer them to bat in the fourth afternoon.
India’s Independence Day is two days away. Perfect timing?
It is. As players, we understand that we do bring a lot of joy to a lot of people with our successes. It’s nice to know that there will be so many kids in small villages and towns who’ll be smiling, who’ll be happy, enjoying it with us. You get a chance to impact so many people through just playing.
At 11/3, how was it being in the middle?
It must have been excruciating for you to watch me bat, so you can imagine how excruciating it must have been for me to play that innings. Having decided to not enforce the follow-on, we were 11 for three and you have all sorts of thoughts running through your mind. Sourav came in a played quite beautifully. But it just didn’t seem to be flowing for me.
It’s not often that you have to calm Anil Kumble, as you had to today (Monday).
Anil can get quite worked up in the field when he’s bowling. He gives it his all and sometimes, it can get the better of him.
If someone had said that you’d win without you or Sachin or Sourav getting a 100, what would you have said?
I would have said great, that’s what Indian cricket needs! We need contributions from everyone, we need people to stand up and be counted.
The Englishmen said they were thrown off by the angle of deliveries from our left-armers.
It’s something that’s been done before, it’s not rocket science, but it was executed well, and credit to the bowlers and the bowling coach for that.
Batting a second time, did you want to give them 110 overs or did you wish to put the target beyond their reach?
Both. I thought if we put the target beyond their reach, they’d be forced to defend and we could exert a lot of pressure. Batting without hope is very difficult because you know that the game is going nowhere for you. Also, that 110 overs would give our bowlers enough time to have one last crack.
You think maybe another 10-15 overs could have been good?
Maybe, maybe not. When you are 11/3, it’s a bit different. We lost three wickets in the first three overs and had to reassess the situation. We were one-up in the series. We came here to win the series and we’ve achieved that.