The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘God’ above Aussies under

Adelaide, Dec. 16: Champagne, beer.... Just about everything in the Oval dressing room was poured on Sourav Ganguly. Luckily, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called (on manager Shivlal Yadav’s cell) before the drenching session, or else he would have had to wait till teammates let go of India’s most successful captain.

Today’s momentous four-wicket win over Australia brought Sourav on a par with Mohammed Azharuddin (14 victories), but a superior success percentage — 55.71 vis-à-vis exactly 50.00 — gives him the No. 1 spot.

Man of the Match Rahul Dravid was so overwhelmed he didn’t react for the first few minutes after coming off. He remained not out on 72, to post a match average of 305.

Bradman would have approved.

In any case, Sourav elevated Dravid to the highest pedestal by saying he batted “like God”.

Predictably, the vice-captain found that a bit too much. “Look, Sourav must be joking.... How can anybody bat like God'”

Yet, not many years earlier, Dravid had authored that immortal line: “On the off, there’s God and then Sourav.”

Dravid wasn’t the only one found wanting for an immediate response to history being created. Initially, Sourav himself didn’t quite know what to say. That explains his restraint when walking over to embrace his vice-captain on the turf itself.

A padded-up Anil Kumble was busy filming with his handycam, while the Deep Dasguptas kept congratulating each other. Virender Sehwag light-heartedly threatened to land a stump-blow on anybody questioning his technical competence to open.

Typically, coach John Wright — who didn’t move from the dressing room balcony during the tea break (India on 217 for four, 13 short of the target) — kept a low profile. He didn’t even make a post-match media appearance. India finished on 233 for six.

Steve Waugh was also quiet. He would have liked his farewell here to be different, but must have drawn comfort from the standing ovation when he stepped off the Oval for one last time.

While India won their first Test in Australia after almost 23 years to go 1-0 up — incidentally Yadav was a member of the victorious team at Melbourne in 1980-81 — Steve vowed Australia would hit back. He will wholly be banking on speed merchant Brett Lee’s return.

“It’s a difficult ask but, then, that’s the challenge.... Except our batting yesterday, I don’t think we did anything terribly wrong. Fact is India played very well and deserved to win,” Steve acknowledged.

Asked if a lesson needed to be drawn from totalling 556 in the first innings and still losing, he quipped: “Yes, that we shouldn’t score so fast.... Can’t think of anything else.” Significantly, just once before, back in 1894-95, did a team total more than 550 and still lose.

Then, too, the result went against Australia, with England being victorious in Sydney.

Sourav, who spoke about having “tough characters” in his team, later told The Telegraph: “Winning a series overseas has always been at the top of my agenda.... We’ve taken a step forward, but this momentum will have to be maintained....”

Back in his hotel suite, the captain began to reschedule wife Dona and daughter Sana’s return home. “My daughter brings luck.... How can she leave on the very second day (January 3) of the Sydney Test' She must stay till that match ends,” he said to nobody in particular.

For now, though, Sourav intends to “enjoy” his most satisfying victory.

The second Test, in Melbourne, is 10 days away. Suddenly, the summer in these parts isn’t short on spice and more.

Postscript: Team India physio Andrew Leipus also received the drenching-treatment as the spectacular win coincided with his third wedding anniversary. Wife Sue, however, wasn’t around.

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