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A triumph of collective spirit

Few burdens are heavy when everyone lifts it. The Indian team underscored that tellingly with a command performance against England in the league game in Durban on Wednesday.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2003 01:27 IST
Navjot Sidhu
Navjot Sidhu

Few burdens are heavy when everyone lifts it. The Indian team underscored that tellingly with a command performance against England in the league game in Durban on Wednesday.

It was the triumph of the collective spirit, with India playing as a cohesive unit. And, India banked on ruthless aggression in pulverising England by 82 runs to virtually assure themselves of a place in the Super Six.

After Sourav Ganguly won a crucial toss, the Tendulkar-Sehwag blitzkrieg nullified the threat that young James Anderson posed. It was nice to see the arrogance back on Tendulkar's countenance --- the master stamped his authority on the English attack. His strokes off Andy Caddick were the sort that would destroy any bowler's psyche.

The good thing about the rest of the Indian batting is that none of them tried to emulate the frenetic pace with which Tendulkar picked up the runs. It would have been a folly to ambitiously attempt sustaining the momentum. Instead, they played to their own strengths and within their limitations in rebuilding the innings from the scratch.

It was a sensible gameplan to have wickets in hand at the death. To have tried to keep the scoreboard ticking at the same breezy pace would have seen the Indians courting trouble, particulary when Andrew Flintoff seemed to be landing the ball in the right areas. The ball had lost its shine and the track turned out to be sluggish, calling for an industrious approach.

There was a spell when the question begged asking: Why was Dinesh Mongia slotted to bat at No.4? Common sense must prevail and he must be sent back to No.7 where he has done reasonably well, with Dravid batting at the critical No.4 spot.

With his industrious attitude at the crease, Dravid restores balance and provides solidity to a line-up that is so full of exciting stroke players. On Wednesday, he held fort and helped India set its stalls. The Dravid-Yuvraj combo was the perfect pair at the crease in the final overs, one typically aggressive and the other tempering things with a steady approach.

The England captain Nasser Hussain found himself on the other side of the equation, his side having to chase a challenging total under lights and a track that freshened up a bit because of the dew. The moisture in the air offered the ball resistance, and allowed it to swing, and the three Indian pacemen rose to the occasion.

Mohammed Kaif's effort to run out Nick Knight in the opening over was the spark that ignited the Indian team. Despite not making a contribution with the bat, he created an opportunity for the team with his fielding. India's fielding, as a whole, was a revelation, with each man working as if he were possessed.

Nehra eased into a great start given by the Srinath-Zaheer combination that rocked England on the back foot. His was a wonderful example of putting mind over matter. In spite of limping out of the match against Namibia after one delivery with a twisted ankle, Nehra's commitment and passion to do well in the big game was there for all to see -- character is not made in a crisis, it is only exhibited.

Nehra got the ball to swing at a pace that showed the rhythm that he has now got into. If India's third seamer has shown himself up as a match-winner, it only means that the attack has now got an incisive edge and wears a well-settled look.

Viewed against the backdrop of this victory and the pressure-cooker atmosphere that can dominate India's final league game in Centurion on Saturday, it can be said that Nehra has eased a truckload of stress off India's back and the pressure has shifted to Pakistan.

Yet, the Indian team will do well to remember that one joy can wash away all the grief. For all of India, a win over Pakistan is as big, if not bigger than a World Cup conquest itself.

First Published: Feb 28, 2003 01:21 IST