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WI tour an 'awesome' Dravid series

"History will show him as one of the best players of all-time, any time," said Chappell.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2006 11:25 IST

It's around noon on Monday, the day after India have won an amazing Test match at the Sabina Park, defeating the West Indies in three days. The win has left the Indian players with two days of nothing to do, just wait for their departure back home after nearly two months on the road. They don't radiate any particular air of celebration, rather one of quiet contentment.

At the team hotel, the Hilton, in Knutsford Boulevard in the upmarket New Kingston area, there is gentle buzz of activity, more than the usual, perhaps, on a working day. Especially by the poolside bar.

In one table, on which lie a sheaf of papers with handwritten notes all over it, are sports scientist Ian Fraser and team trainer Gregory King engrossed in a discussion.

At another table, there's Yuvraj Singh chatting with Raj Dev Walia, a Toronto-based sports goods dealer, originally from Jalandar, who supplies cricket equipment to all the Caribbean countries.

On a table by the poolside, computer analyst S Ramakrishnan is busy talking on his mobile phone, with team manager Anil Savant sitting alongside.

Mohd Kaif and Dinesh Kaarthick are standing nearby by, having an animated chat, while Rahul Dravid passes by, pausing now and then as hotel residents, and even employees, stop him and seek to be photographed with him or ask for autographs.

Munaf Patel lumbers into the lobby, where a couple of packed cricket coffins lie, ready to go to the airport. Some players, including Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman, have been fortunate enough to get seats out of Kingston on Monday itself. For most others, the British Airways flight to London is fully booked, they have no choice but to wait till the Wednesday flight, on which they were originally booked.

In the midst of all this, are a horde of Indian journalists. The players may have packed their cricket bags, their tour of duty done. But it's still working time for the journos.

Some are standing at the poolside bar, waiting for coach Greg Chappell, who has said he would be available around noon. Some are waiting in the lobby. And some are making calls on the hotel's house phone to players, seeking interviews.

Soon Chappell emerges and is immediately surrounded by the pressmen. "I have a flight to catch, gentlemen," he says, "so let's make it quick." Chappell is off to the US, to see his newborn grandchild and will rejoin the team in Bangalore as it prepares for next month's trip to Sri Lanka.

It's a happy and relaxed Chappell who faces the press. Perhaps, in the back of his mind -- and it seemed so when Dravid met the press on Sunday also -- there is an underlying sense of relief.

This tour, comprising five one-day matches and four Tests, may not have gone exactly as planned. India came as heavy favourites to win the one-dayers but lost it 4-1. They were expected to win the Tests comfortably, too, against a side which has been underperforming for years, but had to wait till the last Test to get it.

Victory, a series win in the Caribbean after 35 years, a major win away from the sub-continent after 20, in many ways, vindicates the policies of this team management, which has shown a bias for youth and young talent.

But Chappell is not one to express that. Rather he advocates caution.

"It is a good step forward," he says. "No more than that. We can't afford to exaggerate. We've got to be careful, not get carried away.

"I've been around long enough in cricket to know that you can't over-react, good or bad. We're a long way short of being a great Test team."

Inevitably, the questions move on to Dravid, his two knocks at Jamaica, his captaincy.

Chappell simply replies "Awesome."

"He (Dravid) is consistently striving to be better," says Chappell. "When he got out in the first innings, he didn't come in and complain. He just said, 'I should have gone forward.' History will show him as one of the best players of all-time, any time, any place."

History will also record the 2006 series as Dravid's series, just as the 1971 tour will always be Sunil Gavaskar's series.