World No. 1, that’s a good place to be isn’t it? I’m really glad that the Indian team has reached such an exalted position and it is a credit to the entire unit. Almost two years back we sat down and planned for this day, so you can imagine the feeling among all concerned now that the task has been achieved.
Back then, we knew that in the next 18 months or so we would play almost every team in the world, either home or away. We made a conscious effort to sit down and discuss the way to the top. The team goal was simple. We were fifth in the rankings and said to ourselves: “Let’s go out there and win every series from here on, as that is the only route to the top.”
A lot of people played a part in the uphill climb, with some exceptional individual performances only adding to the effort. It was not an easy ride by any means as time and again the team got out of pressure situations, sometimes for a well-earned draw and at times to go on and win too. Gautam Gambhir’s batting for almost two days to save the Napier Test against New Zealand, Virender Sehwag’s start during the run chase at Chennai against England, Sachin and Yuvi’s efforts in the same Test, Rahul, Sourav and Laxman’s holding the innings together time and again — these are prime examples.
We always played as a unit, with the batsmen delivering with the ball at times and the bowlers with the bat at others. The other key to winning is opening partnerships. Viru and Gambhir have put on some really big stands and the issue here is that once your No. 3 and No. 4 batsmen are not made to come in too early, you always have the upper hand.
Also it was always about consistency, and not just about what happens on the field. It has to do with consistent policy and here’s where the leadership played a big part, with the team going from strength to strength once Dhoni took over. When you are consistent in your decision-making and clear in your thoughts, even things such as luck with the toss goes your way.
Credit must be given to the support staff too. Although a couple of them, Venky and Robin, have had to go, each one of them played a part.
Going forward, I don’t see any reason why this team can’t hold the position for some time to come. There will be teams overtaking you, as the number of Tests played by each team is different, but the simple formula of continuing to focus on winning every Test and series still holds good.
Then again, let’s not look ahead too much. This is not a final that has been played and won. It has been a process that has borne fruit, and it is time to celebrate.