When the Indian team embarked on a 12-week tour of the United Kingdom in the third week of June, more was talked and written about Fordgate than a serious analysis of the team’s chances in the gruelling tour.
Cut to August 14, and the Indian team, scoffed at as a “coachless” bunch by many, is just one step shy of returning home as one of the most successful Indian teams ever.
After an emphatic win against South Africa in Belfast (a first for India in a bilateral One-day International series against the Proteas outside India) and Test series win against World No. 2 England, Dravid’s boys are set for the NatWest One-day challenge which kicks off in Southampton next Tuesday.
India’s recent record in England proves that they stand an even better chance of winning the ODI series than they did in the Tests.
<b1>Though they had a forgettable outing in 2004 – getting knocked out of the Champions Trophy and losing the preceding three-match series 1-2 to England — they would draw inspiration from their show two years before that. The NatWest challenge in 2002, featuring Sri Lanka as the third team, will always boost any Indian team playing in England.
This is as much because of then captain Sourav Ganguly’s bare torso heroics in the Lord’s balcony after his team’s world-record run chase in the final against England as the chase itself. India were struggling at 146 for five chasing 326, when Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif, then the new kids on the block, helped India snatch an incredible win.
It was the youngsters who did it for India five years ago. And young and fresh blood is indeed the need of the hour for India as most of the regulars would be feeling the effects of being on the tour for almost two months.
The likes of Yuvraj, Ramesh Powar and Gautam Gambhir – who spent most of the last month in the dressing room – and Ajit Agarkar, Munaf Patel, Rohit Sharma and Piyush Chawla – who linked up with the team at the Heathrow on Tuesday morning – will provide fresh legs on the field for the shorter version of the game.
It would, however, not be easy for the four who arrived on Tuesday to be thrown into an ODI as early as on Thursday, against Scotland for the Royal Stag Cup. But all four will most likely make the eleven against Scotland if the team management decides to rest those who don’t have age or fitness on their side.
Captain Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan will get a week to recover from minor niggles, if any, and get ready for the series. So the Scotland ODI and the warm-up game against England Lions in Nottingham on Saturday could serve a dual purpose for the team. Not only will these give the seniors some time to rest but also present an opportunity to the One-day specialists to acclimatise.