I?m glad the team supported me | india | Hindustan Times
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I?m glad the team supported me

As I read the headlines surrounding Shaun Pollock's departure as South African captain, I find myself silently thanking my team for the way they have supported me during this World Cup. I have always taken the view that a captain is only as good as the players around him.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2003 02:42 IST

As I read the headlines surrounding Shaun Pollock's departure as South African captain, I find myself silently thanking my team for the way they have supported me during this World Cup.

I have always taken the view that a captain is only as good as the players around him. In this tournament, I have been blessed with the strongest hand of pace bowlers India has ever fielded.

Shaun, on the other hand, ended up paying for the failures of his supporting seamers. Allan Donald and Jacques Kallis are big names but they showed none of the penetration we've seen from Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan.

South Africa's approach to cricket is not unlike our own, in that failure is swiftly followed by a search for a scapegoat. In India, even the public likes to get in on the act, as we were reminded when some players' homes were vandalised following our nine-wicket defeat to Australia.

Those were early days in this tournament. Since then, we have produced some of the best cricket I have seen us play, setting a new Indian record of seven victories on the trot. But all that will count for nothing unless we complete the business over this coming week.

There is no danger of us taking the Kenyans lightly, as they put up the sternest opposition we encountered during the Super Six stage. At the same time, though, I cannot deny the team is dreaming of a World Cup final. This is the biggest week of our careers, and when you consider how far we have come and how well we have played, we would be horribly upset to go home without performing on the ultimate stage.

I watched the first semi-final with interest. We wanted to help Sri Lanka go through to this match, because we felt the Port Elizabeth pitch would favour their spinners. Outside the sub-continent, there is no doubt that Australia is the stronger side, but the conditions at the St. George's Park offered the Lankan spinners some help.

The Aussies have struggled against the turning ball in this tourney, never more so than when Kenya's Asif Karim took three for seven against them on Saturday. However, against the Sri Lankans, the Australian bowlers did a great job.

Sri Lanka had the initial advantage but gave it away. They did not put enough pressure on the Aussies once they were 52 for three and surprisingly allowed the remaining batsmen to settle down.

This has been a World Cup for bowlers of all kinds, which has made a welcome change after years of one-day run-gluts. There has been purchase for the spinners and bounce for the quicks, and happily, India have managed to find a balanced attack that can take advantage of both.

For me, Nehra has been the star of the show. He damaged his ankle in our opening game and will need an operation after the tournament. But he has the biggest heart of any of our fast bowlers --- he'll always run in for you, whether in the nets or in a match, even if he is in pain.

Nehra and Zaheer, who has just become the fastest Indian to take 100 one-day wickets, have both benefitted from the guidance of our fitness trainer, Adrian Le Roux. In the old days, this was an area that Indian cricket used to neglect. But now the boys are stronger and fitter, and we are beginning to reap the benefits.

In terms of consistency and performance, Indian cricket is on the up. We have got to the finals of the last two Champions Trophies, losing to New Zealand in 2000 and suffering a washout against Sri Lanka last October, and now we are in the World Cup semi-finals.

Even in Tests, we seem to be going in the right direction. I don't think any Indian side has played as well in England as we did last summer, particularly when you consider the strength of the English Test side.

Now that Nasser Hussain has resigned as England's one-day captain, I'm sure he will be missed. I felt at times his batting at the one-day level was a little below par, but he is a great leader and brought a lot of fighting spirit to the team.

When they come to pick the new one-day leader, I think the choice should be between two men. Michael Vaughan is the best player in the team and has a good head on his shoulders. But if Graham Thorpe happened to be ready to come back and play in both forms of the game, he is a senior man with lots of experience. I believe he would do a good job.