Call them Dravid's Devils | india | Hindustan Times
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Call them Dravid's Devils

Not many believed that India would win four straight ODIs against Sri Lanka, the world's No. 2 team, that too with conviction and ease. The turnaround in fortunes had surprised fans -- and possibly the team and captain Dravid too, writes Pradeep Magazine.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2005 11:31 IST

Not many believed that India would win four straight ODIs against Sri Lanka, the world's No. 2 team, that too with conviction and ease. The turnaround in fortunes had surprised fans -- and possibly the team and captain Rahul Dravid too.

Since making the final of World Cup 2003, Team India had performed miserably. From being a genuine aspirant to the top slot in the one-day format, it quickly slid to the lower half of world rankings.

One fallout of the churning in Indian cricket after the recent Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell clash was the appointment of Dravid as captain. He himself had responded to his elevation with a lot of apprehension.

Today, when fans are wondering if the team can keep up its winning momentum, it is time to see how Dravid has kept the flock together and turned it into a spirited, fighting and winning unit.

Insiders say when Dravid joined the team for the first ODI in Nagpur, he was unsure about the kind of response he would get from the fractured side. But Dravid, shrewd man that he is, assured his mates that all talk of the Ganguly and Chappell "camps" was absurd.

"We've not performed in the past couple of years and if there's this talk of dropping some players, it should be taken in the right spirit," the skipper is said to have told the players.

Each player was talked to individually and at length. A champion bowler like Harbhajan Singh was made to realise that "it is important to raise the bar and cross the barrier between mediocrity and greatness".

Dravid needn't have worried. The players have great respect for him because of his outstanding and "selfless" performances. Once they realised "the captain is not there to divide the team but is talking in their interest", they were quick to respond.

Sachin Tendulkar's return -- and his putting his weight behind captain and coach -- has been a big help.

One XI Dravid has held side together. Team told not to believe talk of Ganguly, Chappell `camps' Leader Dravid has been an inspiration. Harbhajan told to `cross barrier between mediocrity and greatness' Return Tendulkar's return has made a difference. Pathan's promotion to No. 3 slot was his idea Result India's first one-day series win on home soil since beating Zimbabwe 3-2 in March 2002

India had fallen into a morass and the only way to bring in fresh inputs was consensus. Virender Sehwag, Dravid's deputy, became an important part of the think-tank and it became apparent that Chappell was not the "demon he was made out to be".

The coach had already talked to the players and "softened' them. The explanation that "performance is the only insurance against being dropped" worked. India started winning again.

Having started well, Dravid -- who has told the team that "he won't tell them to do anything that he won't do himself" -- can now ask more from the players. As he said after Thursday's win in Pune, "Players like Dhoni, Venugopal and Raina are the new face of Indian cricket and it is a very exciting face."

Coming from the captain of team on a roll, it is impossible to argue with that. Home rule I India played their first-ever home one-day series against England in 1981-82, which they won under Gavaskar's captaincy 2-1. I This is India's 31st bilateral series at home, of which they've won 18, drawn 3 and lost just 10. I Only 4 times has India made a clean sweep (minimum 2-match series). I In 1988-89 they beat NZ 4-0, their best performance at home so far. I After that, the current series is only the second instance where India won all of their first four ties. I Other instances of clean sweeps:

1982-83 (India beat SL 3-0); 1983-84 (beat Pakistan 2-0); 1992-93 (beat Zimbabwe 3-0).