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India should deliver knockout punch

What a splendid performance! Who would have ever thought India could reach such a juncture after Australia scored 556, writes Arun Lal.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2003 01:25 IST
Arun Lal

What a splendid performance! Who would have ever thought India could reach such a juncture after Australia scored 556 in the first innings? Even till Sunday, the feeling was that India are not out of the woods and need to bat well to avoid being pressurised on the last day. The tables have turned but this performance can only be counted if it's converted into a win. There is still the most important bit left - the knockout punch. Make no mistake, the Aussies will come hard at the Indians.

A loss however unlikely, could cost India dear. For a number of years now Indian cricket has been on the threshold of achieving something big. We have played quality one-day cricket and have been winning Test matches abroad but have always fallen short of achieving our potential - a series win abroad.

We failed to score 122 runs to win, albeit on a difficult wicket, at Barbados. Indian cricket has reached its defining moment. If we can go one up in the series then anything is possible. There have been some sensational performances by Rahul Dravid, Laxman, and now Ajit Agarkar. This apart, it has been a terrific team effort, typified by some spectacular catching.

It has been my belief that this team has had the talent for quite some time to rival the best and reach the top. The batting has big names like Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly, to which we can now add VVS Laxman. Probably the most talented of the lot but somehow he could never perform to his potential.

These days he is playing sublime cricket and it is not only form and confidence that comes from success, but a new-found maturity, which is now evident in his batting.

The bowling has always been thought of as the weak link, unable to get the opposition out twice. Zaheer Khan has now reached a level of performance that can be more or less counted upon. Agarkar has been an enigma - always doing enough to keep everybody interested but never quite enough to win matches.

This performance is what dreams are made of. It may have provided the decisive edge the Indians needed and what a time to achieve the best! Just like Ganguly's hundred in Brisbane will be counted for a lot more, as it provided the much needed self-belief in the Indian effort, Agarkar's performance on Monday will take Indian cricket to another plane.

It's almost certain Agarkar will now consistently do justice to his talent. The one thing that stands out in this Indian team is its never say die attitude, epitomised by Dravid saying that his innings will only count if India wins.

They were thinking of winning even at the end of the 3rd day and I’ve to say that such a thought may not have crossed the minds of staunchest of Indian supporters. The way India have fought and come back after many had written them off, speaks volumes for the team’s character. The World Cup is a case in point and now this performance is another fine example.

The credit for this change has to go to the entire team of talented individuals but more so to the captain who has been instrumental in knitting this side together. His aggression and desire to win matches and not necessarily friends, has actually been the driving force behind the team. While I have no doubt that India can pull it off, stranger things have been known to happen and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

First Published: Dec 16, 2003 01:10 IST