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A Lax ray of hope in heart of darkness

Whether VVS can actually convert the good cheer and his experience into something tangible, we will have to wait and see, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2006 03:48 IST

VVS Laxman arrived in town on Friday morning looking remarkably fresh, despite the overnight flight from India.

He accepted congratulations on his becoming vice-captain with a beatific beam and seemed like a ray of sunshine in the dark clouds that have surrounded this team ever since they landed on South African shores, clouds that had their hazy beginnings in the happenings of a year ago.

Now whether Laxman, who is scheduled to play his first one-dayer in Centurion on Sunday, can actually convert that good cheer (unaffected as he is by the continued losses of these past two weeks) and his experience into something more tangible, we will just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, the Indians continued to be dogged by the rain. They have had one game at the Wanderers washed out and perhaps three outdoor nets sessions so far because of the rain.

And Friday, the day India played their first-ever Twenty20 game against South Africa, dawned grey and gloomy, with thunder ominously ringing out every now and then.

India were due to practice at the Wanderers in the afternoon ahead of the match, but the weather forced them into the indoor nets, causing more frustration.

It is always an unhappy situation when men used to outdoor team sport are cooped up indoors for prolonged periods; this can be only worse when the team has been faced with equally prolonged losses and when you add the fact that there are definite problems within the team itself, the frustration and simmering anger gets that much worse.

The news that Sehwag's vice-captaincy might have been lost also because of perceived indiscipline, a charge apparently also levelled at Harbhajan Singh, is being viewed in some quarters as very unfair. Harbhajan, in fact, is in the dock at the moment for a reason that is extremely silly — for reportedly skipping a team lunch on the day of arrival.

But as he was laid low that morning by a stomach bug, the reaction seems quite over-the-top and completely unnecessary.

And given the team alliances, as in who is perceived to be close to Greg Chappell and who is not (despite Sehwag's speaking up for his coach after the St Georges Park loss), this so-called disciplining process (if true) of these two players will obviously be viewed as a remarkable coincidence.

Anyway, moving on to other matters, even while the Indian camp hopes that Rahul Dravid will regain full fitness ahead of the first Test two weeks from now, there is a possibility he will not.

And if he doesn't, Laxman will lead India in a Test match for the first time, a team marked by tenuous relationships, and now overshadowed by the presence of Sourav Ganguly.

There is no doubting that Ganguly, who is expected here with Gautam Gambhir and VRV Singh on Monday, will be under tremendous pressure when he takes the field in the first Test.

No one doubts the spirit of the man, who was feted as India's most successful captain till not so long ago, but at the same time, facts are facts.

Ganguly is not at his best on the sort of wickets he will get in South Africa and he will require to lift himself and do something extraordinary if he has to show himself and the world that he still has what it takes.

He has done things against the odds before, most famously when he set up the 2003-04 series Down Under with a brilliant, defiant century in Brisbane, when everyone else had quailed.

But South Africa now, with the bowling attack they have and under these circumstances, will be a different ball game. Combined with the situation India are in at the moment, this, now, will probably be the start of one of the most defining phases of modern Indian cricket.