One peaceful Potch evening, Indian skipper Rahul Dravid, watching some of the members of his team roaming around the lobby of the small Willows hotel after dinner, gave thanks for having the four-day game there. “We needed this time together,” he remarked. “It has really helped, being together in a small place where there’s not much else to do, spending this time together.”
And if being stuck in the middle of a one-horse town and being thrown together day and night for lack of anything else to do has been able to bring this group of disparate men together, then perhaps that’s what is needed for Indian cricket --- breaks in the middle of small town nowhere, some intense cricket and some equally intense (even if forced) bonding.
“It was good to get away a little bit in Potch, to get away from it a little bit and just hang in together. The team was pretty hurt with the one-day performance and we jut got together as a group and said that whatever happens, we need to fight better.”
And then, there is no doubting that Dravid, stung no doubt by some heavy criticism, probably smarting from the one-day whitewash and helped immensely by some standout individual performances, marshalled his resources as well as he could. And he did very well.
Sourav Ganguly said as much on Sunday night and on Monday, Dravid returned the compliment. Pointing out Ganguly’s firsts innings batting with the lower order as one of the key moments of the game, Dravid added that Ganguly was “playing really well”.
“No doubt, his performances at Potchefstroom and here were fantastic. The way he controlled the game in both those innings was good, and he batted well. He is a proven and experienced performer, and when he bats well he’s going to make a big difference. It’s nice to see him batting well and I hope he keeps continuing. We need a lot more performances from people like him, Laxman, Sachin and myself if we want to have the right result.”
The right result is obviously, an earlier unimaginable Test series win in South Africa and while Dravid believes the Proteas will come back at them with all guns blazing in Durban, he also added that India would be prepared for that. “We’ve got to respond adequately but we will take a lot of confidence from this Test. We’ll celebrate a day or two and then start focussing. There’s a lot of cricket to be played.”
That there is but if India can bowl like they did here, it would counter the Proteas aggression. Dravid agreed but said it wouldn’t be just about aggression for them. “We don’t have guys who can bowl at 150 kmph, or 145, all the time, consistently. For us, it’s about discipline, bowling in the right areas. We are not big built but that does not mean that we cannot compete at this level. We’ve got to know what our strengths are and play to them. Our strengths are swing, bowling in the right areas.”
He said the other strength had been the coaching staff and the reference was also obviously to under-fire coach Greg Chappell. “Unfortunately, we tend to focus a lot on individuals, and defeats. It’s not all about that. At the end of the day, it’s always about the team. Victories and defeats are not about the captain and the coach or one or two individuals. It’s about the team; the team’s won this.”
“I knew people were going to write us off. And you can’t blame them. We weren’t playing well, and South Africa definitely started as favourites. But I knew there was that quality in this group, the resilience. And there are very good players. And we showed that in the last three days.”
And with some effort, they should show it again.ia forged bonds that mattered