Two days after drama at the Glasgow Airport, Flight 127 from Belfast landed around noon on Monday, bringing to town a bunch of happy Indians. The Indian team had good reason to be happy — the moment they were waiting for over 16 years was finally here, gained in the cold, mist, rain of Belfast.
Fittingly, the last match ended in the last over. The last day in Belfast, after all that cold, misery and flu, was bathed in golden sunlight that lit up the hearts of the Indian fans, as did a most impressive win.
The players laughed, joked and fooled around as they waited for their turn at the check-in counters. It was a very long wait — the incident in Glasgow seemed to have caused alarm bells to ring around the UK — but the cricketers were patience personified, pushing their bags in the queue, music in their ears and passports in their hands.
The last week, actually, has been a bittersweet symphony —with the greater emphasis on ‘sweet’. The win over South Africa can be termed as very significant. True, as Jacques Kallis repeatedly pointed out after the match, the Proteas were missing their captain Graeme Pollock and Shaun Pollock.
However, they still did have Ntini, Nel, Langeveldt, Hall and Kemp - men tested and trusted over the years. Dale Steyn, with his raw pace, and Morne van Wyk, with his power of bat and mind, did fairly well too. And as Rahul Dravid said more than once, the conditions suited the South Africans more. But it were the Indians who used the conditions best, the sensational Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Ajit Agarkar helped India find cheer at the melancholy Stormont.
Rather inventively, journalists asked Dravid how he felt after the win, and the captain matched them. "It feels very good, to win an ODI series against the No. 2 in conditions that suited them," Dravid said. "All three games were close, and I’m happy for the boys. It was a great team effort."
Then someone asked Dravid about the fact that, in effect, India are without a coach. "We do have a fielding coach and a bowling coach - Robin (Singh) and Venky (Venkatesh Prasad) have been looking after that," Dravid said. "We’ve segregated those roles really well. We do have a cricket manager in Mr Borde, who uses his experience to guide us."
However, Dravid said the absence of a coach meant that the players, especially the seniors, had greater responsibility. Conversely, he said, it did not mean that with a coach in charge, the seniors become irrelevant. "Obviously, I’ve had to take a little bit more responsibility in certain areas," he said. "The senior players are the leaders in a team."
India would look to keep up the tempo against Pakistan, whom they play on Tuesday — after a gap of well over a year — in an ODI, the proceeds from which would go to Prince Charles’s charity. Pakistan had a game against Scotland on Sunday, but it was washed out by heavy rains. Monday was better in Glasgow — it was cloudy but the sun shone through in patches and it was rather warm.
A good game in Glasgow against Pakistan, right after fantastic games in Belfast against South Africa, would just do fine before England.